As one frequently hired to write, edit, or review business planning packages I’ve followed the progress of current thinking on matters of plan content and size with interest.
The rapid transfer of information by online and wireless means has conditioned us to expect talking head presentations delivered in sound byte bursts. Under such conditions plans adhering to rigid guidelines emphasizing X pages on Y subjects written in droll “biz-speak” will increasingly lose appeal. Thus planners must strive to produce customized output that guides diverse audiences through engaging stories to quick buy-ins of desired conclusions and solutions.
All of which can tend to leave presentation preparers struggling to find a plan for the plan. Available tools run the gamut from experts, online examples, software packages, informative web sites and books to courses, consultants and more. The multitude of recommendations flowing from this resource mass can prove confusing.
So, how does one come up with winning presentations in a period where the old rules are outdated and new guidelines are rapidly evolving? In my opinion success requires that responsible parties view each project with a mindset comprised of the following Concepts and Considerations:
End Someone’s Pain:
It’s been said before. A business needs to solve something of significance and all plans must tell that story.
A good story told professionally is mandatory. Stimulate your audience and cause questions you want to answer to be asked. This should initiate verbal exchanges, which is generally a very good thing.
Always, always be sure you know the reason why you’re including something in your plan. The reason why will always have at its heart a customer benefit.
Absolutely everything about a plan is a marketing device – tout them as frequently and professionally as possible.
The executive summary and body of a plan should provide bottom lines only. Use one table in the ES and as few as possible in the BP body. They must say much with as little folderol as possible and appear simple. Your audience needs to focus on your business case not how you did your math.
Use clear and concise language – never overstate anything and attempt to eliminate passive words and statements.
Be a Business:
Nothing sells like sales. If possible be in business before writing a plan – you’ll know more when you’re operational and it shows.
Watch Your Language 1 - Tech Talk:
Stay real as defined by your audience - inside terms can go over their heads and leave them in your dust.
Watch Your Language 2 - Sensationalism:
Let business performance or a skilled press agent create the sensational. Include the amazing, astounding, marvelous only if from an unimpeachable outside source and do so very sparingly.
Watch Your Language 3 - Buzz | Lingo | Acronyms:
Limit buzz, never use lingo or slang without qualification and watch out for acronyms. Hyping the hip can be confusing and is usually just plain wrong.
Stay On Task:
Know your subject and stay with it - don’t wander.
Highlight The Customer:
Business customers are everything. Treat them like the gods they are or soon will be.
Use Creative Repetition:
Don’t be repetitive but state the same key details frequently through creative wording and emphasis.
Never, ever allow a senseless error to make its way into a final plan or presentation. Become fanatic about math, logic and language accuracy.
Tie It Together:
Make sure all presentation materials are taken from a unified plan. The executive summary, plan body, appendices and presentation slides need not tell the entire story as stand-alones, but together must capture absolutely everything pertinent.
Ask Your Own Questions:
Know what your audience will ask and what you want them to ask. It is critical that all key subjects are covered.
TEST | TEST | TEST:
Run your plan by as many different people as possible before taking it live. Seriously, your mother, grandparents, kids, friends and “whoever” can help. Be certain of what they do and do not understand.
Two pages maximum, 15 concise paragraphs, one key table or chart, one on-point quotation (maybe), all of which briefly summarize the entire plan. This is your elevator presentation and it must generate an invitation to provide a full presentation.
Eight pages that expand ES details, touch on all key subjects, provide needed highlights and inform enough to secure audience buy-in.
Provides necessary support and nothing more.
Carefully prepared set of graphics configured to subtly add color and life to a presentation. Must be no more than 10 slides that augment, not repeat, written materials. Extra slides should be available to cover questions or other issues that the audience may wish to see or that you may want them to see if the “mood” is right.
Product or Service Demo:
Go live with the real thing. Impress and dazzle with a live demo and let your audience get their hands on what you have to offer. This must be a guaranteed success.
Ultimately there are as many ways to prepare planning documents and presentations as there are people or enterprises needing them. I’m hopeful the preceding assists in establishing a proper mental checklist for potential plan preparers before writing or selecting tools or specialists takes place.
The author is a management professional with more than 25 years experience in business development, growth, and marketing. He has worked in such diverse industries as temperature control, industrial gases, materials handling, medical devices and implants, food distribution, and agriculture as a senior manager for start-ups, foreign owned corporations, and giants such as Bristol-Myers Squibb.