Presentation skills learned from ‘Mad Men’

Silky smooth pitchman Don Draper knows when to go big from the get-go and when to hang back, biding his time, waiting to turn it on. Timing isn’t the whole ball of wax, though.

Don Draper is the man that every man wants to be, and that every woman wants to be with.

Well, you can resolve at least one of those—in the boardroom, that is—by emulating some of the skills that Draper has demonstrated while pitching for big clients.

Even if you don’t work in advertising, everyone has something to gain from thinking about how they style themselves and come across during important meetings.

Presentations in particular can be difficult and anxiety-filled settings. Those who can make a good and lasting impression when the pressure is on will go further in their careers. It’s not just when wooing a client you should turn on the charm, either.

If you’re presenting to your own team, or to a cadre of executives in your company, you’ll want to show off confidence, boldness, and, yes, some Draper-like swagger that’ll keep people on the edge of their seats.

Here are five tips to get you started:

Lead with big ideas

Draper’s Kodak pitch is arguably not only his best, but also the one that won the hearts of “Mad Men” fans. He introduces nostalgia as the core concept by showing the carousel. His theme and overall mission come first, and everything else falls into line with it.

Draper doesn’t sell a camera—he sells you on your own memories. His pitch goes big, built around love for a family and not just one product.

Others might take the reverse approach and build up to the final conclusion; but when you’re looking to sway opinion, especially when you’re competing against others, it’s best to come right out with it.

Tell stories

In all aspects of business, marketers are thinking more about storytelling and visual communication. People connect with ideas and feeling they recognize and know. It’s what we all have in common.

Make sure that you first know what’s driving people to find you, purchase, or sign up. Then show potential customers those benefits in action.

When you stand up in front of a group, make sure that the information you’re conveying is presented in a narrative way that will be something they can “see” and then remember.

Appeal to emotion

In addition to telling stories that people will hold on to, you’ll want to capture their hearts. The Jaguar pitch focused on beauty and desire, something that Draper calls “a natural longing” for luxurious things.

If you expect people to shell out large amounts of money for your items or services, you’ll have to establish that the cost is worth it. Advertisers know how to seize on that and to make it look effortless.

Draper is a master at relating the positive connections that we feel for the cars, or furniture, or electronics that we choose for ourselves.

Don’t put everything in the slides

The biggest mistake that inexperienced presenters make is reading directly off their slides. At their best, slides function as aides in educating and enthralling the audience.

They’re not there to serve as a substitute for a person’s communication, though. Otherwise, you could have just emailed a memo.

Draper knows how to grab people’s attention and to keep it, holding off on revealing his slides and slogans until the time is right. His vision comes through with his words. The text accompanying him just reinforces the message of the man.

Nobody would ever call Draper a humble man, but he does have a discernible belief that others can bring something of their own to the table. For example, during the Lucky Strike pitch, Draper takes a backseat to others and just takes it all in. That way, when the time is right and he can get up to pitch, he’s ready, engaging, and fresh.

Draper always seems challenged by viewpoints and perspectives of others in his meetings, and then rises to the occasion. The best creativity comes out of collaboration and, in most cases, from listening.

Danny Groner is the manager of blogger partnerships and outreach for Bigstock A version of this article first appeared on Straight North’s blog.

Topics: PR

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.