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Presentations from the perspective of the audience

Written on 04-06-2015

If you are a manufacture or a product representative, you may be familiar with the 'Lunch and Learn'. These are events where your potential clients trade an hour or so of their time for a 'free' lunch. In return you get to tell them about whatever it is you're selling.

In the architecture world, this is often linked to AIA credits. We get a lunch and credits. You get to give an AIA approved presentation and slip in a few brags about yourself. I imagine it can be very challenging on your part to come up with an interesting and engaging presentation on roof membrane sealant. Whatever your poison is, here is a few things I've learned from sitting through many of these lunches.

Things to consider

1. You're going to buy lunch for free loaders.

Not everyone at the presentation is the decision makers for the company. In fact, very few of them are. Sometimes the room is full of interns just looking for a 'free' meal. It's going to happen and you have to be prepared for it. However, you may build relations with the future decision makers and that never hurts.

2. Avoid crunchy food.

It's tasty and *CRUNCH* I love it, but I'm *CRUNCH* missing some of the *CRUNCH* message. You don't want me to miss any of the message because I are already bored or half interested. Your presentations might be curious but not 'ohhh what's next?' interesting.

3. Samples

Bring something tangible. I don't know why but it connects the designer with the product. I'm familiar with what a grey porcelain tile looks like but if I can handle a few samples while my meal settles it somehow brings me closer to your product. Don't expect to leave samples for a sample library. Those are a thing of the past. Designers now use Modern Sample for their material libraries.

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4. Be oddly excited about your product.

If you can convince me that you are head over heals crazy about door hardware fire safety codes, than I'm going to be oddly curious about your product. I'm going to pay attention a little bit more, and I'm more likely to remember you and your company's name.

5. Set out business cards prior to us arriving.

It's nice to have a business card available when we sit down. Sometimes I forget the presenters name and... oh wait... there it is on his/her card. A few shy people who may not be interested in, or care to ask for it after the presentation is done. When everyone leaves, don't be insulted by how many cards were left behind. It's those free loaders who don't take the cards with them.

6. When it's over, it's over.

If it's 3 minutes past your hour and you still have a few slides... to bad. I've already started thinking about bathroom breaks and deadlines. No more of your information will be absorbed into my brain. My tip, end the presentation with 5 or 10 minutes to spare. That leaves time for questions. And I'll leave the presentation excited about the few spare minutes, which may be confused as excitement about the presentation itself.

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7. Engage

Slides are boring. Charts with tiny text and lots of numbers are very very boring. Graphs are kind of interesting. Playing quiz games about your products or services is interesting. Videos of trucks driving through security fences is very interesting.

8. Useful swag

I once received a pocket calculator. It didn't even have the company name on it. I don't remember who gave it to me. They might as well have handed out buggy whips. Another time I received a stylish reusable cup with the company logo printed on the side. It is very handy and I use it all the time. I've even carried it into other lunch and learns hosted by competing companies, which sparked up some interesting conversation.

9. Speak positive.

I had a window manufacture spend 5 minutes apologizing for their past mishaps. They wanted to drive home the point that they have learned from their mistakes but all I could think about was 'what the hell did they do?'. Now I know them as the company that screwed up. It's not a good idea to warn me what the disadvantages to your product are. I appreciate your honesty but you should highlight your learning process with your accomplishments.

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10. Who is your audience?

Are they residential or commercial? Are they contemporary or rustic? Are they affordable or luxury? (What is the price range. That makes a huge difference. Especially if you are more expensive without any added benefit.)

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