Pitch Perfect: 5 Presentation Tips from the Apprentice


In our lighthearted series focusing on what communication lessons we can learn from the latest series of the BBC’s Apprentice programme we look at episode 2, Cactus Shampoo Advertising.


The bravado, the egos, the personality clashes – we had it all in spades in this episode. We also saw how challenging presenting can be; both teams had to present their cactus shampoo advertising campaigns to a panel of industry experts.


Lesson 1: Don’t underestimate your audience.

If you are pitching to a panel of high-flying ad execs you should plan, structure and develop a cogent argument with supporting evidence in a way that really sells your product.

In the Cactus Secret presentation from Natalie and the women’s team we heard: “The green bottle was chosen… because… the cactus was green”.  Stating the obvious isn’t going to cut it.


Lesson 2: Don’t insult your audience

Following closely on from lesson 1: “Sometimes 45 year olds can be reluctant to try new things”, said one of the 20-something women presenting to 46 year old millionaire and business guru Karren Brady.

Doh! Make sure you research who you’re presenting to, understand who they are and what their experience is, before you launch into to a miscalculated pitch.


Lesson 3: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

If you are chosen to present make sure you have rehearsed multiple times; sometimes the most confident person is the person who dries up under pressure.

Scott was over-confident from the start: “I’m going to smash it,” he told us.

He dried up. He froze. It was painful.

One of the best ways to get prepared for a presentation is to say the first few lines of your presentation out loud at least 2 or 3 times before you are on site.

Consider doing some positive visualisation – imagine yourself walking on stage and visualise yourself welcoming your audience and speaking the first few lines of the presentation.


Lesson 4: Take notes, even if you don’t use them

The brain can play many tricks on us – one of these is emptying completely of all vital information as soon as you’re in a ‘fight or flight’ situation, and standing in front of an alien audience is one of these types of situation. This is what happened to Scott.

“I like to be free with my presenting, I don’t need any of those cards or anything”, said Scott prophetically before he started. We knew it would end in tears.

Whether you need them or not, take notes with you. Make sure you have worked on what you’re going to say and have a clear idea of the content and the narrative of your presentation.

This can help stop you over-running or under-running, and will also ensure you have something to turn to if you dry up.


Lesson 5: Relax

Finally, if you’ve prepared properly, and you’ve rehearsed your presentation you’ll find it so much easier to relax into your presentation.

“We’re delighted to be here today” Natalie opened up with – but we  didn’t believe her. She looked awkward, her fists were clenched, and we could hear that her mouth was dry. We willed her on, as did her team-mates but she looked like a woman about to head for the scaffold.

Sir Alan hit the nail on the head: “You were boring” said Sir Alan.

If you’re relaxed and look like you’re enjoying it, then your audience will react better. You may even be able to add the odd joke or to…


The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is a global  membership association with a network of 12,000 members in more than 80  countries. We deliver on the ​Global Standard ​in communication through educational  offerings, certification, awards programs and our annual ​World Conference.​ Follow  us on Twitter ​@iabcuk

Gay Flashman is a former journalist and experienced communications consultant.  Gay is CEO of ​Formative Content​, a UK-based agency providing high quality blog  content, live event coverage ​and social media content ​for clients around the world.

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