In the consulting industry, management consultants are expected to clearly and concisely synthesize their clients’ market positions, competitive advantages, and financials, and then offer meaningful insights and actionable plans. Typically, presentations that include all this information are created using PowerPoint. Therefore, to become an impactful consultant—and to give an impactful client presentation no matter which industry you work in—it’s important to understand how to use PowerPoint effectively as well as how to structure a presentation effectively.
Below, you’ll find five guiding principles that will allow you to give effective client presentations like a seasoned management consultant.
1. Start with the conclusion
People typically think chronologically and so like to present information chronologically. Presentations usually begin with an introduction, are followed by a problem statement and analysis, and end with recommendations and a conclusion. However, since clients are most interested in your insights and the basis upon which you framed your insights, it’s best to flip this structure upside-down and start with the conclusion. After that, only then communicate your supporting ideas and salient points that form the basis of your conclusion (and don’t forget to use the MECE structure when presenting supporting ideas).
2. Make slide titles meaningful
When creating presentation slide titles, most people use generic titles like “Introduction” and “Analysis.” But this is a mistake. Clients don’t want to have to scan through an entire slide to figure out your insights, so the best practice is to put your insights front and center—make them the titles of the slides. For example, instead of using “Competition” as the title of a slide on how competitors have a significant scale advantage, use the entire sentence: “Competitors have a significant scale advantage.” One thing to keep in mind, though: make sure that every slide communicates one or two (but not more) meaningful insights—it’s best to create more slides rather than crowd them.
3. Use visuals and bullet points (don’t write paragraphs)
Remember, it’s not your PowerPoint presentations but you who is responsible for running client engagements. That is, clients need to be more focused on what you have to say as opposed to what your slides say. Therefore, it’s important to not fill your slides with paragraphs and long-form texts that require significant reading commitments on behalf of clients. Instead, use easy-to-digest visuals like charts and graphs along with bullet points to communicate your most salient ideas.
4. Don’t read slides verbatim
People sometimes think that once they’ve put their slides together, they’ve reached the finish line. Not true. Once your slides are complete, you should then spend a considerable amount of time developing a narrative to complement them. As mentioned above, you (not your PowerPoint presentation) are responsible for running the client engagement. So, if all you do is read your slides verbatim in front of clients, you’ve added no value. Instead, develop a separate narrative for your presentation and weave your slides into that narrative. Ideally, your narrative should begin with a well-formed conclusion, followed by the basis for your conclusion.
5. End by reiterating your conclusion
It’s good practice to end your presentation by reiterating your conclusion while also giving a couple of key takeaways. When you end this way, your salient points are reinforced, and your client has a clear understanding of the next steps and action items going forward.
Recipient of the Presidential Award from The White House, Vibhu Sinha is an intrapreneurial and bottom-line driven senior management professional with experience in leadership roles across banking and capital markets. He has advised institutional clients on corporate strategy, idea generation and pitching, financial planning and analysis, M&A, investor relations, and ESG. Vibhu developed his acumen in Behavioral Psychology at Harvard University as part of a master's degree program. He also earned an M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson.
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