This article was originally published in Forbes.
You’ve just devoted a lot of time and energy to building the perfect corporate deck -- a presentation that tells your company’s story and what it strives for before crescendoing with the impetus for people to buy your products. You proceed to roll out the new deck and train your staff on everything from the pitch and cadence to timing and delivery.
Two months pass, and after joining a few sales calls to gauge its impact, you quickly realize it isn’t working. The message just isn’t penetrating, and the story has been falling flat. So, what went wrong?
The reality is that the corporate deck as we know it simply doesn’t work in the current business environment. In today’s fast-moving, dynamic reality, a traditional deck has little chance to deliver as intended unless it is dramatically restructured to adapt and morph as the context dictates.
Why ‘Controlling The Narrative’ Doesn’t Work
One of the main objectives of a corporate deck is to “control the narrative” -- to make sure every customer-facing company advocate delivers a consistent, well-crafted story that leads to measurable success. This narrative focuses on the company’s mission, vision, differentiators and secret sauce. The intended outcome is the best-positioning story the company could possibly tell.
So, where’s the catch? Why are most corporate decks so ineffective once out in the field?
There is one component that is often overlooked: the person delivering the message. To better understand this missing piece, let’s look at two scenarios:
- Jordan is an up-and-coming account representative at his first meeting with a new prospect. He starts presenting enthusiastically, only to be quickly interrupted. The customer has seen his company’s corporate video and asks that he skip to showing them what else he has. Jordan is taken aback and struggles to connect the dots between what he is showcasing and the company story.
- Amanda, a senior account manager at the same company, is also about to meet a new customer. She has been in Jordan’s shoes before, having had similar experiences with prior versions of the deck, so she simply skips it and starts telling her own story.
I have seen these scenarios repeated over and over. Paradoxically, when you focus on controlling the narrative, the corporate deck is rendered useless. Sales reps start ignoring the deck, which creates a void for a plethora of on-the-fly narratives, leaving your corporate story anything but controlled.
The root cause lies in the way the deck is constructed. There are two issues that hinder a deck’s success:
- It’s too rigid. Corporate decks typically come in one flavor, with little variation. Scripts are crafted to be followed to the letter, and while there may be slightly different versions for different audiences, you still get the script designed for the audience.
- The context is left out. Everyone in the company is supposed to present the deck in the same way, regardless of background or sales context. Even when the presenter improvises, it seldom works because the deck was designed monolithically by people with several degrees of separation from the field.
The good news is that there is a solution to convert your current deck and render it useful again. Here is the three-step process I recommend to turn a traditional corporate deck into one that is agile and context-aware.
Step 1: Create Multiple Storyboards
Although this might sound counterintuitive, the essence of the narrative remains intact. Here are examples of three simplified storyboards that can be applied to the same company:
The Tried-And-True Experts: After working for over a decade on [problem] and gaining many accolades, we believe we can help you solve your current needs. Many customers are already happy with the results. Let me show you how it works and what makes our offering the best fit for your requirements.
The Top Challenges: When talking to most of our customers, we hear these top three challenges, and we built our offering to address these concerns. This is how our customers are using our products and what makes these products stand out in the market. Let me show you how …
The Answer To Imminent Change: There is an important [milestone/event/regulation] that is fundamentally [disrupting/transforming] our industry. We saw it coming and built our platform with it in mind, which is why our early adopters are now over the hump. [Show examples.] We believe we can help you on this journey because we have experienced it firsthand. Let me show you how …
Every statement in each storyboard should have one or multiple slides as visual aids. Note, however, that all these storyboards seem disconnected from the narrator, the very person delivering the story. This connection takes place in the next step.
Step 2: Enabling Your Team
Teach your reps the ins and outs of the storyboard, but don’t simply have them memorize the script. Help them understand the statements’ sequence and meaning, and then train your messengers on how to insert their personal stories in the narrative.
Every deck is designed to have multiple points of entry where the narrator can be part of the story. This will immediately make the message more authentic.
Step 3: Establish A Feedback Loop
Create a forum where people delivering the deck can provide feedback. This allows them to not only share their experience, but also learn from others who have dealt with similar situations. This step is crucial in keeping the deck alive and not falling into the same routines.
The Bottom Line
While there’s nothing wrong with the content of your company’s corporate presentation, the way it is applied and delivered may leave much to be desired. By applying this three-step process, you can breathe new life into your stale corporate deck and have a more agile, engaged team enthusiastically telling your corporate story.
About the Author:
Joe Boissy is chief marketing officer at Iteris.