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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.


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#177: Death by Power Point - Again

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I cringe every time we are asked to deliver our consulting report to clients. Inevitably, they expect a briefing package and Power Point slide show. Are there some better ways to deliver these reports?

Power Point is just a technology. It is not the reason these presentations are so deadly. It is how you use it that causes angst. There are two strategies. First, if your client requires Power Point, make it less dreadful. The approach is logical: keep slide decks as thin as possible, use as few words possible per slide, use images that support your verbal presentation (not replace it), have a great roadmap so everyone knows where you are going, and practice a lot so the transitions and flow is smooth.

Second, don't do it. Look for alternative presentation approaches. This is a challenge because the nature of findings is analytical and traditionally presented in a linear fashion. I have seen incredibly powerful and memorable presentations with nothing other than photographs. Each image represented the theme of the point being made and none were originally intended to be used in a business setting. You'll have to get your client on board with this approach, but if the presentation is to be more than a data dump.

Tip: You should take Power Point's reputation to heart. Whether it is using a better storyboard (e.g., Beyond Bullet Points) or non-boring technologies (e.g., streaming video, Flash, and other multimedia images), it is you, not Power Point, per se, that is being judged.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  meeting preparation  meetings  presentations  technology 

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#135: Efficient Use of Meeting Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 18, 2009
Updated: Friday, September 18, 2009
With several clients, my meetings seem to be less productive than they usually are and occasionally we have to schedule another meeting to finish our work. Any tips on how to help clients be better prepared?

I assume you are talking about getting everything you want done in a session. But what gets done during a session is only half the reason for a meeting. The other part is what we want the parties to think, feel and believe both prior to and at the conclusion of a meeting. When we plan a meeting (if we even do think through the meeting in advance) with only an agenda of topics to cover, we shortchange the process and waste a lot of everyone's time. This applies with client-consultant meetings as well as any meeting between two people. The success of a meeting is in the preparation, and full preparation may take more time than the meeting itself.

Consider the following prerequisites to hold an effective meeting (as the consultant, it is our job to see that these get done, either by us or our client):
  • Ask whether a meeting is the most effective vehicle for what you want to do ("let's meet" is a reflexive response to the need for any decision, information transfer or inquiry, but there may be less intrusive or more effective ways to accomplish these objectives)
  • Decide who really needs to attend (if you are not contributing something or making a decision, read it in the minutes)
  • Specify what preparation must be completed (don't occupy time in a meeting with tasks that can be done alone in advance)
  • Make sure information needed for distribution or decisions is in hand (never delay a decision or assignment because you don't have data)
  • Be sure attendees are emotionally ready (usually overlooked; if a decision is to be made, are questions answered, has there been adequate time to socialize a tough decision or do attendees know each other well enough to avoid confrontations?)
  • Assure enough time is available for complete discussion and deliberation (do a dry run of the meeting to be sure enough time has been allocated for full deliberation (sequence meeting items to be sure that delays can be accommodated by deferring items or extending the meeting)
  • Confirm meeting process/ground rules are acceptable (how will decisions be made, who will hold people accountable for action steps, and who is running the meeting?).
Other items are a function of the type of meeting you are conducting.

Tip: To the extent possible, clients should always run consultant/client meetings. Even if the consultant planned the meeting, prepared the presentation or advance materials, and was material in creating the decision framework for the meeting, the client needs to be in charge. Meetings in which the consultant drives send a subtle but powerful message that the consultant is responsible, if not accountable, for managerial decisions. This undermines the client's confidence in their own ability and position to manage their organization.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consultant role  consulting process  engagement management  meeting preparation 

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#122: Will You Be Ready When You Are Asked?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I recently had an uncomfortable event that I'd like to share with other management consultants. My client asked me, at a board meeting no less, to get up and give a five minute talk on the trends in the industry that are affecting the company. I think I did OK but I was really unprepared to deliver a speech that focused (it would have been easier to give a two hour talk).

While you may have relied on your extemporaneous speaking skills and subject matter knowledge to create a solid performance, you raise a good point about being prepared to "be an expert" in your field on short notice. The problem is that we often know so much about our industry or discipline (that's part of what clients value), it does take a bit of thought to distill it down, especially if what is asked is about this week's or month's issues as they relate to a business. A long view of an industry or process skills used in the industry is necessary but not sufficient to create a short presentation to deliver real value.

Mark Twain said, "It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." How would you go about preparing a good impromptu speech of one minute? Five minutes? Fifteen? What are the three to five key trends in your business you would want to get across? This is not about you or your firm, nor is it about your particular skills or experience. It is about the state of your industry and the insights you have developed that decision makers, client or not, would find valuable.

Tip: Keep a running list of the half dozen key trends or leverage functions in your industry. Keep up with the news, business media and decision makers in your industries on these topics. If the key topics change, then change your list. You might even benefit by writing out a few note cards on the topics. Having done so will firm up the main points in your mind, making sure you are well prepared for your next "impromptu speech."

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  customer understanding  meeting preparation  presentations  trends 

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#103: Schlock and Awe

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Updated: Thursday, August 6, 2009
Is it really necessary to have an elaborate corporate qualifications dog and pony show when pitching an engagement to a client? I hear from clients about how impressed they were with how much multimedia and exciting graphics were in consultant X's presentation.

A few questions. First, are we talking about pitching to a client who doesn't know anything about you? Talking to a prospect who, before your meeting, knows nothing about you (or a prior client who has forgotten the details from your last engagement) places you on an even footing with every other consultant. It may even put you at a disadvantage to consultants who have been referred or have a more visible public image. You can fix this to some extent by making sure your reputation arrives before you do. Too often, a consultant diligently prepares to meet a prospect without making sure the prospect is prepared to meet the consultant (this is a tip for another day).

Second, if you are pitching to a client who is wowed by a fancy presentation more than substance, is this the client you really want to partner with? It is naive to think that we would dismiss a potential engagement just because of the impressionability of a client; after all, we do make sure any communications we make and work products we deliver are top quality. If it seems like style is more important than substance (and it really is to a few people) then decide whether your skills are better used elsewhere.

Tip: Don’t get me wrong. Having a polished presentation of your capabilities and how you propose to address a client's situation is important. It’s just that you can make it professional without going overboard. Over the years I have had many clients wonder aloud how much that razzle dazzle presentation must have cost to put together - and extrapolate how much waste they are going to have to pay for during the engagement. If it is too gaudy, a prospect will be impressed, but only by how much schlock they have to endure. Sometimes the most powerful impact is made with a only marker and an oversized sheet of paper, which lets you create the project right in front of the client in real time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  meeting preparation  prospect  sales 

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#87: Always Have Your Script

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Although I am an experienced consultant, there are times I leave a client meeting or sales call and remember something else I should have said. Is it is appropriate to send a note later or call and make that missed point?

You can certainly do that but it is better to make your points all at once so you make them all, make them in the right sequence, supported them with your presence and nonverbal cues, and you can see the other person's reaction. I can understand that, as you get more experienced, the extent of your knowledge and examples of applied consulting grows. But there is nothing wrong with rigorous preparation for a sales call or client presentation. Sometimes we get overconfident that we are so experienced that we will have everything on the tip of our tongue. This wasn't true when we were new consultants and it isn't true for senior consultants.

Tip: Prepare scripts for important conversations. Whether you use them for advance practice, as last minute check aids, or for talking points in a session, these are essential to make all your points in as cogent and complete a manner as possible. For example, if you are making a preliminary sales call, lay out the key points of your personal story, the relevant issues with the prospect's firm, the scenario of your supporting them, and the imagined future after your engagement. Include side bar conversations about people you know in common, past engagements on similar issues, and recommendations for other consultants for related opportunities. All this can fit on a single sheet of paper, and if you make sure you have answered each of these issues, you will be prepared and deliver a complete pitch. And you won't have to worry about forgetting something next time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  learning  marketing  meeting preparation  presentations  sales  your consulting practice 

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