The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

How To Be Freddie Mercury In The Boardroom …
August 14, 2015, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back I did a presentation to the office on how to do presentations.

This isn’t because I think I am very good at them, but because having done so many in my life – I know what simple things can make someone so much more effective when they do them.

That said, I’m a bit of a hypocrite given I don’t follow every rule to the letter … but as someone said, those who can’t do, teach.


I should also point out that the title of this post is misleading.

I don’t actually want to turn people into Freddie Mercury.

Not only do I have doubts he’d be that good in the boardroom, the fact is his leotards would be a bitch to wear.

That said, on the stage he was a beast.

It didn’t matter if he was performing to 200 people or 200,000, all eyes were on him and he made sure his audience always went away getting exactly what they wanted and hoped for.

And that’s what I mean by the title of the post.


Anyway, as some of the slides are in my usual ‘picture, no words’ format … I thought I should give a brief breakdown of what they mean and then after that, it should all be fairly obvious.

I hope.

Unless you’re a thicko.

Remember, this is not a blueprint for how to present, it’s simply ‘8 tips’ that can make you – whatever your style – better.

That’s not just because I don’t think anyone has the right to dictate presentation standards, but because the last thing the World needs is a bunch of people all adopting the same robotic approach to what they have to say.

I hope it’s useful, even if you end up using it as tips of what NOT to do.

So here we go …


Regardless what job you do in advertising, there is one thing you will find yourself doing – whether to colleagues, bosses or clients – and that is presenting.


The word ‘presentation’ has the power to put the fear of god into people.


People think the audience will look at them like this.


Forgetting they could also look at them like this.


Mainly because they are pretty convinced they’ll look at them like this.


But the fact is, a good presentation can change everything. Meetings. Relationships. Opportunities. Careers.


A good presentation tends to require 3 things coming together:

1. A presentation that has been written with a strong, clear story – with a definitive beginning, middle and end. [Or said a better way, a clear conclusion]

2. An ability to present the story in a way that the audience finds engaging, inspiring and actionable.

3. An ability to clearly and accurately answer all questions or challenges that come your way.

[As an aside, never fear being questioned, it means people are interested and have taken the time to listen to what you have said. This is a good thing]


Today, we are going to focus on how to make sure you present your story in a way your audience will find engaging, inspiring and actionable.


This presentation will not turn you into Steve Jobs.


Nor give you the presence of Darth Vader.


Or the popularity of Oprah Winfrey.


It is simply a presentation to give you tips and tricks to be ‘the best you’.


Before we begin, there is one thing you should know about presentations.



Ever, ever, ever.


There are only 2 reasons you should have a presentation …


+ To conflict a client – so they make a different decision to the one they’re are going to make.

+ To convert a client – so they approve what you want them to approve.

If you are having formal presentations for any other reason, then you are wasting your time, their time and your colleagues time.


Which is why before you go into any presentation, you should ask yourself these 3 simple questions and if you can’t answer any – or if you are unable to provide the solutions for any – you’re not ready for the presentation.


But let’s get back to the point of this presentation: ‘how to be a better presenter’.


As much as Hollywood would like us to believe people can see through the mess to see the gold, sadly they can’t … and how you present often influences the response more than the idea you’re trying to convey.


This is to give an example about the point raised in the previous slide.

A long time ago, the US Air Force were holding a tender for a new fighter plane.

Over weeks, various generals sat around a big table hearing engineers explain why their plane design was best.

Eventually someone came in from [I believe] Lockheed Martin.

In true Hollywood fashion, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a marble before proceeding to roll it slowly down the table – past all these highly ranked Air Force generals.

Looking at them all, he asked …

“Who’d like a plane that registers the size of this marble on the enemies radar?”

All the generals nodded and the presenter said he would now bring in people who would show them how they could do it.

He won the pitch right there because not only did he know what the ‘client’ actually wanted, but he was able to present it to them in a way that got to the point in a way they could relate to and be excited by.


This is a slide that relates to a story Dan Wieden told the office recently. The story is irrelevant, the point is he told us something very personal and private to him and his vulnerability made us feel closer to him and more connected to him. The moral of the story is explained on the following slide.


This is a book that talks about ‘high concepting’ [which is basically how the man in the story on slide 20, approached his presentation]

The book is about Hollywood film producer Don Simpson. It’s worth buying.

Not just because it explains how he sold studios multi-million dollar film ideas in a few sentences, but because it gives you entry into the depravity of the 80’s.


Explains how Richard Branson used ‘high concepting’ to brief his Virgin Atlantic Lounge.

The story of that – and the solution to it – can be read here.

The rest of the presentation should be fairly self explanatory, though the last slide is a link to a clip from Mad Men that basically captures the best pitch you’ll ever see, using [some] of the tips I list in the presentation.

You can see that – if you haven’t seen it a million times already – at the end of this post.

Anyway, the overall purpose of this presentation isn’t just to help you feel better – and do better – in presenting, it’s to teach a skill that can help you in your career.

Good presenters – of which there are sadly very few – are always in demand.

They make things happen.

They get invited back.

They change outcomes.

That doesn’t mean they are simply ‘entertainers’ … far from it … they are people who know how to convey a story in a way that an audience wants to have more of.

They are trusted.

They are respected.

They stand out from the crowd.

Good presenters increase the odds of getting a good results and in a World that is so highly competitive, being the person who can show they have made things happen – rather than just talk about the things they wanted to make happen – is the difference between owning your career and having your career own you.

If this interests you, you may find these 2 other posts may be of use too.

1. How to not be scared in meetings.
2. How to ask tough questions without feeling intimidated.

I hope they help and if they don’t, sue me.

[Please don’t sue me]

32 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Fantastic stuff Robert. I’ll never be as good a presenter as you are, but this will help me close the gap. Great tips and points all the way through it, especially the only 2 occasions you should present. Thank you.

Comment by George

Thanks mate, that’s nice. Funny you should talk about those 2 moments to present. When I was writing the presentation, I really focused on that and even I was surprised when I realised it was just those 2 moments. I’m so guilty of having not followed that advice, but it won’t happen again.

Comment by Rob

Your queen with her mouth open and someone with an erection. Who are you presenting to, limey politicians?

Comment by Billy Whizz

And they’re next to each other. That’s his British citizenship gone.

Comment by DH

you scumbucket fucking yank.

Comment by andy@cynic

Surely if you wanted to act like Freddie Mercury in the boardroom, you would lie on the table, stay perfectly still and act dead.

Comment by DH

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening.

Comment by Rob

Surprised you didn’t put Andy’s “vomit on the clients desk” tip in there. It worked for him really well.

Comment by DH

There are too many presentations. I know your three questions begin to cover it, but why not more about when not to present and how to explain that decision to those who want a presentation?

Comment by John

Doesn’t he cover this with his 2 reasons to present and 3 rules for when to present? I don’t know if there’s too many presentations but there’s definitely too many bad ones.

Comment by Pete

Yes he does, but I suppose I wanted to expand the discussion beyond the agency-specific example that Rob was highlighting..

Comment by John

are you really adding serious fucking debate to a post by rob campbell? who the fuck are you and where have you taken downer dodds?

Comment by andy@cynic

Also, why nothing about length. People don’t listen to long presentations.

Comment by John

yeah campbell, you didnt cover what clothes to wear, that you should have a hearty breakfast on the day of your presentation and ensure you have lots of water so you dont get a dry throat. why the fuck didnt you mention any of this stuff. you fucking amateur.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh come on – you know that the length of the presentation is more significant than that. Not to mention that nobody would take his advice about what to wear.

Comment by John

Duration of a presentation is important but I don’t know if it is feasible to set a maximum time to present.
I have always been of the belief you take the the minimum amount of time necessary to properly communicate your point. But as Robert points out in his presentation, this is based on what your audience needs to know to make a decision rather than what you want to tell them.

Comment by George

That’s a good point John, I should have added that.

[Though I don’t agree with your earlier point because I actually think I cover that in this presentation]

As for how long a presentation should last, it’s hard. I agree with George that it is less about a time limit and more about being ruthless about what you actually need to convey to ensure your POV is understood.

However, in my experience, if you’re trying to ‘convert’ your audience, 45 minutes is about the most you can get away with but if you’re trying to conflict them [ala TedTalks] then 15 minutes is all you should need.

I suppose the basic rule in terms of time is, always leave them wanting more, never wanting you to leave.

Comment by Rob

its so fucking sickeningly nice on here. youve changed. youve all fucking changed.

Comment by andy@cynic

I love this Rob, great tips and advice. John doesn’t seem to agree but you can’t please all people all of the time. Which is another tip you could have mentioned.

Comment by Pete

Where did I not agree? I simply asked questions in line with slide 7. I am the engaged audience.

Comment by John

you might not use impact anymore but its nice to see youre still using that hard on trunk photo. better layout for the copy these days too. made me feel all nostalgic. for about 3 fucking seconds.

Comment by andy@cynic

If it’s not broken …

Comment by Rob

You are alarmingly good at presenting Robert so I know these tips will be helpful to anyone looking to up their game. I also appreciate you have designed this to help people improve while maintaining their own style. I find this far more preferable than the robotic approach favoured by other presentation skill gurus.

Comment by Lee Hill

Thanks Lee. I personally hate people who say ‘you must present exactly like this’. Part of a presentations success is the ability to bring your personality to the moment and if you are simply following a flow chart that has been adopted by countless others, you just end up boring the audience.

Comment by Rob

I hate to say it, but this is good.

Comment by Bazza

Kill you doesn’t it.

Comment by Rob

I always say this, but you should do more stuff like this, you really should

Comment by northern

It’s great, want more of this indeed!

Comment by Thuymi @

Not Queen related posts, that’s not what I meant at all, just to be absolutely clear. Being Freddie Mercury in the boardroom if you work for me, in fact if you don’t I’ll find a way to get you fired anyway

Comment by northern

If I worked for you, someone would fire you for hiring me.

Comment by Rob

Trust me, there are plenty more reasons why I would get fired, plenty

Comment by northern

[…] out the best way to get the message across without falling into the deadly presentation […]

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