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  • Martin 
  • 4 min read

Walking out of a meeting with the biggest sports brand in the world

“Come on, guys. We are leaving.”


The head of the agency stayed calm as he stood up.


We were in the office of the biggest sports brand in the world. 


And we were the ones walking out.


I looked at my colleagues—the head of events and strategy director.


No one spoke.


We all stood, packed our things and followed the head of the agency out.


We did that thing where no one talked until we left the building. 


Staying silent in that elevator was hard.


WTF just happened???

Previously on...

We had spent two months getting a pitch ready.


We had at least 5-6 check-in meetings with the client.


They had worked with us the year before, and we had delivered a benchmark-setting project.


So why did it feel like the project was the Titanic, and we’d hit the iceberg?


Because the client we were talking to all this time was not the final decision-maker.


Everyone in our agency had been duped.


I had massive respect for my boss. He managed to stay calm and collected as we walked out. 


We had spent a lot of time and resources on something only one person wanted.


And they did not have the authority to approve it.


Walking out, we avoided a “she said, he said” spat.


It was the right but hard thing to do.

Getting used to agency life

It was super disappointing for me as I was new to the agency world, and this was a project I was at the centre of. 


My idea had been the spark that got the whole thing moving/


It was a big learning curve.


It was when I learnt that presentations are a small part of business success. 


Yet paradoxically, they are also essential.


You have no doubt heard:


“Send us a presentation.”


“Let’s meet, and you can show us the presentation.”


“I’ll send your presentation to my boss.”


Business phrases like this are said a million times a day worldwide.


But a presentation is a tool.


A way to organise, frame and share information.


A carpenter can’t build a beautiful chair with tools. 


Yet when someone sits in a beautiful chair. No one celebrates the saw or hammer; they celebrate the outcome.


When business interests and senior stakeholders aren’t aligned, the presentation soon melts like a snow cone in the desert. 


It’s a chicken and egg.


If there’s no presentation, then people can’t see the project.


But having a presentation guarantees nothing.


So what should we do?


01 – Be very comfortable presenting without the deck.

Your connection with the people in front of you is the presentation rather than the slides.


02 – Multiple versions. Always have a very short. A short and longer verbal pitch ready to pitch at the drop of a hat. 


Some people call this an elevator pitch, a top-line pitch. Share why the idea is essential for the people in front of you. Why and how they will benefit.


03 – This short pitch must be easy for others to present. 


You will only sometimes be in the room as the champions or the gatekeepers present on your behalf. Your words must become theirs.


After walking out of the meeting, we did finish a project with the world’s biggest sports brand. But not the one we had been working on for months.


What happened?


As is often the case, people are speculating. Prospecting. Hustling. Chancing it. Leveraging their position and taking a gamble. 


You miss all the chances you don’t like.


I respect that.


And everyone has a story of where, against all odds, they tried it and were successful.


Yet not this time for us.


My fail-forward learning is this.


✔︎ Use presentations strategically.


✔︎ Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.


✔︎ Start small and light.


✔︎ Grow the presentation as you go.


✔︎ Do your best to find out who makes the final call.


✔︎ Get on their radar early.


✔︎ Have a process for making presentations so they don’t chew up lots of time.


We need to spend some time on them, but we can only spend a little bit as the opportunity costs tick on the meter. And get expensive


This experience inspired me to create my presentation playbook: The 8 Steps to Showtime.


This is the process I use for every presentation I make. It’s the roadmap that helped me deliver a keynote to the head of HR at Mercedes China in 10 days.


Let’s schedule a call if you want to train your team with this roadmap.

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