Why Next Steps is the First Not Last Part of a Presentation

I had a hard time once when working with a client on a pitch persuading them to put the “Next Steps” slide first.  They (being logical, bright, technical folks) thought this looked ridiculous.  Why have next steps right up front?

next steps

Well let’s consider the opposite.  We go through a nice educational presentation (after all we are not trying to flog folks stuff they don’t need are we?) and then – last slide is “next steps”.  Like every other presentation.  At which point the audience always gets defensive as they feel this is the stage where they stop relaxing and have to fend off these people coming back in or selling things etc etc.  That’s always the stage where you get some polite “we need to think about this”, “we have to discuss this further internally”.  And that’s always the kiss of death 🙁 … as you may have noticed 😉

On the other hand what happened when we put Next Steps at the beginning was that we started with:

“Look this may not be of interest or relevance to you here and now.  We aren’t here to sell anything today we are just here to let you know what you do which may not be of interest.  If it is of interest then the next steps would be for us to come back or look at a pilot study”

In other words we treat our potential clients as adults, as equal partners worthy of respect – not people we are trying to mug or force ourselves upon.  As adults they are quite open to hearing “if this isn’t for you that’s cool” as they are “and if it is for you then this is what we can do next” – ie we are informing them of the process in both directions before they have heard our pitch.  Then at a minimum they can be weighing up as we go through the presentation whether they want to take our next steps or not and asking questions to help them clarify that.

On the other hand if we don’t clarify next steps up-front, even if we make a great, non-pushy, educational presentation we suddenly shock them into “well what about A or B” and this is the first time they have heard “A or B” and like everyone in shock they will resort to a defensive/contracted position.

This may sound like a small thing but try it for yourself – it’s a killer tip.  Explain your process up front and then lay out your wares. Just send me a cheque when your conversion rates go up as a result 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Why Next Steps is the First Not Last Part of a Presentation

  1. Kumar

    Always enjoy reading your comments. Totally agree Mike. Great observation and angle. Most ‘Buyers’ are seasoned recipients of slick decks; this forces them to think differently. I prefer to place my Summary or Recommendations first and then take the participant/reader through the ‘validation’ journey and not the more guarded ‘where are they taking me with this’ (aka mugging me; in your speak). If they like it then they are engaged; and if they don’t like your opening gambit; they appreciate you not wasting their precious commodity: time and more inclined to hear future pitches.

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  2. TBD Post author

    Thanks Kumar – it’s reassuring when a real pro agrees 🙂

    Seth Godin says that people will take your initial claim at face value … so put your claim up there and then as you say you can validate it.

    I picked up in the next blog on your comment re not wasting there time/attention. These days it’s almost disrespectful at a human level to bang on for dozens of slides without them having say yay or nay to your main theme.

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