Ten Tips for Being “Good in a Room” in the Complex Sale

Do You Know …

The one skill that’s considered to be an absolute “must have” in the complex sale?

The Definition

The complex sale typically refers to a high-value purchase, $150,000 and higher, involving a buyer’s committee consisting of anywhere from five to 20 people … or more. The sales cycle is long – from 12-36 months – and involves multiple stakeholders.

And … multiple decision-makers, all with different viewpoints, agendas and usually radically different personalities.

It’s a Science – It’s an Art

To win at the complex sale, one must be a storyteller, master tactician, strategist, cajoler, evaluator, philosopher, psychologist, bean counter and techno-geek. Yup. All rolled into one. But, even with all of that, there is one skill that is an absolute “must have” in the complex sale. Without it, success is always a delayed sales cycle away – with a morbidly high improbability rate of closure ranging from 0 to 10 percent.

What is that one trait that’s an absolute “must have” to win the complex sale in today’s competitive sales environment? I’m sure you’re thinking some highfalutin, corporate gobbledygook, acromoronic description is coming your way now.

You’d be wrong.

The skill is critical to your success – in business or life. You must be

“Good in a Room.”

What does that really mean … to be “Good in a Room?” To find out I asked someone that had sat on the other side of the fence. A buyer. But not just a buyer of any high-value product or service. A buyer of ideas. Concepts. Words. A buyer of screenplays and stories. Each one a high-value purchase triggering the complex and bewildering process that may eventually lead to the big screen. And, as you’ll see, no movie ever gets started without someone having mastered the “art of the schmooze” and being …”Good in a Room.”

Enter Stephanie Palmer

Good in a Room founder Stephanie Palmer was named one of the “Next Generation: Top 35 Executives Under 35” by The Hollywood Reporter. As the Director of Creative Affairs at MGM Pictures, she acquired screenplays, books and pitches and supervised their development. Some of her projects include “Be Cool,” “Legally Blonde,” “Sleepover,” “A Guy Thing,” “Agent Cody Banks,” and “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.” Prior to MGM, she worked in development at Jerry Bruckheimer Films on “Con Air,” Armageddon,” and “Enemy of the State.” Her first job in the business was as an intern on “Titanic.” She is also the author of the book “Good in a Room.”

Ten Tips for Being “Good in a Room” – Stephanie Palmer

You’ve worked for months (or years!) on your project, and a buyer is interested. The meeting is set, and there’s a lot at stake. You’re going to get one chance to effectively communicate the value and uniqueness of your project. Many people get nervous at this point.

The best of the best, however, follow these ten tips. If you learn them, you can join the ranks of those who know that they are “good in a room.”

1. Silence is the strongest start of all.

Don’t start talking until the decision-maker is ready. If there have been a lot of people popping in, urgent phone calls or other interruptions, ask the executive if he or she is ready for you to begin. Make eye contact. Then, start slowly and deliver your first line. Make sure it is dynamite. Pause. Gauge the executive’s response. Then proceed with your presentation at a relaxed pace. Remember, even though you’re intimately familiar with your project, the buyer will be hearing it for the very first time.

2. Understand the buyer’s secret dream.

Even though top-level buyers can seem cold and recalcitrant, this is the result of seeing a seemingly endless stream of poorly prepared and emotionally needy sellers deliver mediocre pitches. Decision-makers don’t wake up thinking, “I can’t wait to disappoint people and pass on 30 projects today.” Instead, they hope today will be the day they discover their career-making project. Thus, you must position yourself and your project in a way that differentiates you from the masses and speaks directly to the buyer’s highest-priority needs.

3. Build rapport. Then, build some more.

People want to work with people they like. Think about what you have in common with the decision-maker you’re meeting. Be ready to share a few brief, personal stories which demonstrate the attributes you believe will be most attractive to the buyer. Be prepared to ask a few open-ended questions that will encourage the buyer to speak about a non-business interest in a positive light.

All else being equal, you will have the edge if you can establish a personal connection.

4. Make your pitch repeatable.

Though you are selling your project to a decision-maker in the room, after the meeting, the buyer – if interested – becomes the seller and must pitch your idea to their colleagues or superiors. In Hollywood, this is known as the “logline.” If you can’t summarize your project in a brief, compelling statement, you haven’t thought about it enough.

Remember, the more you say, the less people hear.

Choose your words carefully.

5. Acknowledge the competition.

Be prepared to answer questions such as, “What does my project have in common with other successful projects in the same industry? What were the last projects that the company purchased, and were they successful? Which of their projects is most similar to my own? What makes me the best person for this project?” Answering these key questions early in your presentation demonstrates that you have done your homework.

This will encourage them to listen to what follows more closely.

6. The best meetings are conversational and interactive.

Many professionals make the mistake of performing an over-rehearsed spiel that sounds like an infomercial for their idea. Instead, pause frequently, especially when there is an opportunity for the buyer to give you a reaction or ask a question. In an ideal world, you’d spend more time in a dialogue with the buyer, than performing a monologue.

7. Start from the beginning – always.

Even if you had a long and productive conversation the day before, you’d be surprised how much can change in the buyer’s mind. After all, you’ve been thinking about the meeting and they have, too. Assume that they’ve done more research, talked to some people and something has changed since the time you last spoke. It’s your job to figure out what that is. After some initial rapport building, do another information-gathering session. If appropriate, ask for a recap from their perspective.

8. Watch for hidden opportunities.

The buyer’s goal for the meeting may not be the same as yours. In addition to hearing your idea, the executive may be evaluating you to see if you would be a good fit for another project. Remember, when you are in the room, you are selling minimally two things: your project and yourself. Even if the meeting doesn’t result in a “yes,” making a favorable impression can be the beginning of a long-term professional relationship.

9. Don’t claim your expertise – demonstrate it.

Don’t just talk about your experience, show your expertise by positioning your project as it relates to the competition. Don’t brag or boast about past wins. If you must mention a past success, do it off-handedly and with humility. This is similar to the common rule about storytelling, “Show, don’t tell.” Remember a lot of people talk the talk. Those who are “good in a room” are focused on meeting the needs of the buyer and not on boosting their own ego.

10. Save a surprise for the end.

Plan multiple strategies to exit gracefully. Some techniques are to have a callback to a personal topic that you discussed at the beginning of the meeting, thank them for a specific, useful contribution they made during the meeting, or leave them a polished piece of material that they haven’t seen previously. Use a summary statement that you design specifically to be remembered and repeated. Remember, last impressions last.

Surprise!  Bonus tip.

11. You are always in the room.

Develop your skills so that you can handle meetings that occur unexpectedly, like on a plane, at a party, or in a waiting room. More business starts from casual interactions than formal meetings across a conference room table. The polished professional who is “good in a room” is ready for anything. But don’t feel the need to talk business in all situations, often the best move is to say, “Why don’t we just enjoy the party, and I’ll follow up with you on Monday.” To sign up for Stephanie’s free monthly column “Inside the Room,” Click HERE



Stephanie Palmer
Good in a Room
10845 Lindbrook Drive, Suite 200,
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: 310.481.3987
Fax: 310.388.0818
Email: info@goodinaroom.com


The Greatest Presentation of All Time?

The Greatest Presentation of All Time?


A while back I was sent a book, “Moving Mountains: Or the Art and Craft of Letting Others See Things Your Way,” by Henry M. Boettinger. It was from an old and trusted friend.  I’d never heard of the book – but was in dire need of a door stop – so I flipped it over before taking advantage of my good fortune. I caught a glimpse of a familiar name, Drucker. That made me stop.The book had a rare testimonial from the legendary Peter Drucker.

“I’m greatly impressed with Henry Boettinger’s book. I think that it goes way beyond its title and is a first-class, highly original and highly practical, treatise both on how one thinks and how one presents thinking. I would consider it the first truly modern searching essay on rhetoric – in the classical meaning of the term – in the last three or four hundred years.” – Peter Drucker


I read it.  And it was. The book is all about ideas-manship. The planning, packaging and presenting of ideas. Great ideas can die on the boulevard of broken dreams without great presentations. Good presentations meld creation and performance into a symphonic unity. Great presentations – like Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar –  do that and one other crucial thing. Do you know what it is?

“I have heard and watched practitioners in most areas of modern life in their attempts to persuade – lawyers, natural and social scientists, soldiers, civil servants, executives, physicians, engineers, foremen, politicians, mechanics, labor union leaders, shop stewards, artists, musicians, architects, philosophers, film makers, advertising men, accountants, college students, clubwomen, men of the cloth, sundry teachers, and lesser breeds without the law, to name a few. Some were eminent, most unknown. All were persons of intelligence, having something worthwhile to say, but the range of persuasive skill ran from embarrassing, painful failures (including cases of physical collapse) to skillful performers whose presentations were perfectly tuned to their audiences, and who made changing your mind an exhilarating experience. What makes the difference? Neither schooling, material, nor rank of this I’m sure. Whether the audience was one or a thousand, success invariably attended only those who both understood and presented their ideas from the viewpoint of the needs and characteristics of the persons in their audience.– Henry M. Boettinger

Think back to events, presentations, stories, and speeches. What really determined their success or failure for you? The best? The worst?


I can only think of three things, off the top of my head, I’d rather do than give a presentation. Be boiled in oil, drawn and quartered or buried alive – or all three at one time. But I do appreciate the genius it takes to pull off a great presentation.


If you could read only one book on how to give an effective presentation (for any occasion) – read this one. At the end of this article, are two checklists from the book that will help you give the best presentation possible and evaluate presentations of others. You need to read the book to fully understand all of it, but it’s a great resource document to forever change the way you think of business presentations … and the way you deliver them. Because …


Below are some stellar presentations. They’re also exceptional ideas, stories and dreams.  They run the gamut of industries and topics. Some are about business. Some life. Some are funny, some sad. Tragic even. Some new, some old.  Some are speeches, some no spoken words, just images. Some use PowerPoint, some PowerPoint-less. But all have one thing in common. One crucial thing. Can you tell what it is?






The first, “Shift Happens: Effects of Globalization.”







Created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod; Globalization and The Information Age.






Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.




(Humorous, but absolutely realistic, classic)

by New York Times technology columnist David Pogue










“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”







Is this a presentation? Yes. Is it a performance? Yes. One of the finest about the strength of will, love, and the potential of the human spirit.










Jim Valvano, Arthur Ashe Courage Award Acceptance Speech – March 4, 1993























If you had one last lecture, one last thought to give before you die … what would it be?




Dr. Randy Pausch


My pick for the greatest presentation of all time has no video, no PowerPoint, no audio recording. Just a picture and 697 words. Words that not only changed a nation – but were spoken with an eloquent sophistication borne on the wings of simplicity, emanating from a god-like heart, and that now ring eternally, ethereally, through time and heaven.


Words that always make me wonder, did a man like this really ever walk the earth?  Will another like him come? Ever again? Read. Just take the time to read it below. Put yourself back in time. Listen to the words. And when you come to this phrase,

“Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.”

Those last four words …

“And the war came.”

Has any more ever been said with less?

41 days later Abraham Lincoln was dead.




“At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented.

The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured. On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it–all sought to avert it. While the inaugural [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war–seeking to dissole [sic] the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained.

Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” – Abraham Lincoln




Evaluation Checklist for Presentations of Others

1. Is the opening interesting?

2. Is a problem stated clearly?

3. Are the points developed to give a well-rounded view of all relevant aspects?

4. Is the action or belief desired stated clearly?

5. Does the presentor show that he has a vital and passionate interest in the idea presented?

* Is he dominant, submissive, or does he treat the audience as equals?

6. Is the style appropriate for the content?

* Brevity

* Clarity

* Variety

* Mystery or Suspense

* Recapitulation

7. Does the presentor explain or translate technical material well?

8. Are the visuals well designed and related to each other?

9. How well is cross-examination and discussion handled?

10. Is the layout of the room distracting, or does it inhibit discussion?

11. Are the examples, anecdotes, or humor relevant to points made and matched to the style selected?

12. Does the presentor’s idea appeal to Reason, Emotion, and Common Sense?

13. If a “project” type presentation, does the presentor take note of all relevant factors?

* Personnel

* Intelligence

* Operations

* Supply

* External Relations

14. Is the impression created by the presentor one which inspires the confidence of the audience?

* Are there any embarrassing points?

* Are there any nervous or irritating mannerisms?

* Is there a willingness to listen to the suggestions of the audience?

15. Did you learn anything new, or discover new ways to look at the old?

16. Did you see any new approaches which you can use in your own presentation in the future? ____________________________________________________________________


1. Problem-Statement

* What are the two clashing images?

* What exists?

* What do you want to exist?

* Which of the various forms of statement is best:

o Historical Narrative

o Blowing the Whistle

o Crisis

o Adventure

o Disappointment

o Response to an order

o Opportunity

o Revolution

o Crossroads

o Evolution

o Challenge

o The Great Dream Confession

2. Opening Sentence — Will it excite the interest of the audience?

3. What is the “plan” of development?

* Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis, etc.

4. Do you have examples or anecdotes?

5. What devices do you have to get and hold attention?

* Is there a balance between Reason, Emotion, and Common Sense?

* Can you use assertion, refutation, doubt, and affirmation?

6. Style

* Have you made it as brief as possible?

o Is it oversimplified?

o Is it overembellished?

o Are there any tortured passages?

o Are there any embarrassing ones?

* Is every point clearly expressed?

* What alternations in mood exist?

* Is there a mixture of the lofty and commonplace?

* Can you use suspense or mystery?

* Do you need a recapitulation?

* If a multiple presentation, is a leader appointed?

7. Is the tone one of equality, dominance, or submissiveness?

* Do you really believe in the idea itself?

8. Is the group small or large?

* If large, do you have some humor to “break the ice”?

9. What prejudices, fears, or constraints can you expect from this audience?

10. Have you checked the room for distractions? Have you neutralized them?

11. Is the room layout one that encourages discussion?

12. Are visual aids appropriate?

* Does each one carry a statement of its significance?

* Are the best graphical methods used for statistics?

o If technical, have they been checked for competence by experts?

* Is their size correct?

* Are they related to one another so that someone could extract your message from the set of visuals alone?

13. Have you identified the weak points?

14. What cross-examination questions would you ask if you were in the audience?

* Do you have an answer for each one?

* If challenged on your competence, can you reply appropriately?

* Have you identified those in your audience who may oppose, and who are neutral?

15. Do you state clearly: (1) What you want the audience to do when you are finished? (2) What you wish them to believe?

* Does every point made lead to your ending statement in some way?

* Does the audience need to make great leaps to get to you conclusion?

16. Does the presentation use any special vocabularies unfamiliar to your audience?

* Have these been translated into terms intelligible to them?

17. Are unfamiliar techniques employed?

* Have these been explained?

* Have you established why these are used instead of more familiar methods?

18. Have you considered alternative methods of presenting technical points?

19. If the presentation is a “project” type, have you touched the five areas common to all programs?

* Personnel

* Intelligence

* Operations

* Supply

* External Relations

20. Have you exposed the ideas involved to the original, inquiring, and skeptical minds among your acquaintances?


Flickr Photo # 2- Cahron – Eternity – courtesy of H. Kopp Delaney

A PR & Marketing Nightmare: 110 Slides to Present in Five Minutes – What to Do?

Turn This Thing Around

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article called The Big Presentation.It was in response to this question.

“Our company is really struggling. I have to give a presentation to upper management about new ideas or new ways to try to help grow our business. I’m afraid if it doesn’t go well, our department will face serious cuts and people will lose their jobs. Any suggestions?”

Having sat through hundreds, if not thousands of business presentations, I offered a different approach to the questioner’s presentation. An approach based not upon technical presentation skills. One not based upon showing how many facts, statistics, and upward pointing trending arrows or bullet points you could force on a PPT. slide.  But one that ended with a challenge – to everyone in the room-  to try to think different. Act different. Be different. Not your typical presentation.


It’s really easy to give gutsy advice. Especially if you don’t have to do it yourself. Then, a short time later (as these things mockingly go), I had the opportunity to make the same type of presentation myself. To a budget committee. Budget=$$$$$$. Important in any business.


I was going to be a hypocrite and whip up the same old boring corporate PPT gobbledygook-crapola that’s expected. But I went back and revisited my answer. Pondered it. Pondering is not my strong suit so … I decided to take my own advice.

Taking your own advice is always scary. I mean really, the last person I want to take advice from is me.


But there was one major catch. I had to review an entire year’s worth of work and accomplishments of the department in … FIVE minutes (my allotted time). FIVE MINUTES. If you’re in Marketing or PR you know the new media and social media developments over the last year have exploded at supraluminal speed. You have to go 186,000 MPH just to do an even barely adequate job. So, I compiled the  facts and stats. The work on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Friendfeed, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Blogs, Social Media News Room, E-Zines, Widgets, Blidgets, Idgets, etc. When I laid it all out on slides I ended up with 110 of them. That’s right. 110 slides. FIVE MINUTES. Even Einstein, relativistically speaking, couldn’t make that math work  using the same old approach.


There was only one answer. Experiment. With the very same new media tools and thinking that have exploded over the last year.


Then – the day was upon me. I started out by informing the budget committee that I could not possibly finish the presentation in five minutes because — I had 110 slides. They took it stoically (if you don’t count the gasps of horror, tears or heads down on the table).  “But,” I went on,  “I could do it 5:06.” (Five minutes and six seconds.)


The presentation below is best viewed in Full Screen mode (click on bottom right of screen) and with the  sound on.



SHORTENED URL: http://bit.ly/tuAJX

FULL URL: http://app.sliderocket.com/app/FullPlayer.aspx?id=a4379fa5-4464-4d46-9c6b-273c56db163c

Twitter … Eschatological Sign of Writing Times?


A simple micro-blogging service.

Nothing more. Nothing less.



But professional purveyors of corporate gobbledygook know, yes they know, Twitter is a tool straight from hell.

A demon dalliance.

Seed of Satan.


Fathered to challenge sesquipedalian pontifications that mean nothing to no one.

Nothing to no one.

What’s it Mean Steve?

Death to long copy.


Twitter imperils wordsmithereen evil-ese at it’s basest, non-productive most non-valuable essence.

National Security Threat

Twitter threatens …

National Security.

Job Security.

Retro-strategic de-innovation.

Professional obfuscation.


Those in the know, know, the Wall Street collapse and panic can be laid directly at the Tweet of Twitter.


Because everything posted on Twitter has to be 140 characters or less.

For you Non-Twits, that’s about 15-22 words.


It forces you to be concise, clear and short.

Small words.

Short sentences.

Shorter URL’s.

Can you imagine?

Or could this be …

Could this be, possibly,  a sign of the …


Nahh …

I just wanted to use cartoons of Inspector Gadget, and Satan along with the word “Twitter” and phrases “WALL STREET PANIC” and “The End Times” in the title.

I think it had something to do with overeating my favorite cuisine tonight – chili with peanut butter, beans, salmon, jelly, mayonnaise, jalapeno peppers and anchovies, washed down with a quart of chocolate beer.

That might have been it.

However, all seriousness aside, those in the know, know – you just never know.


Sales 2.Oh-No Presentations – A State of the Business Presentation Cartoon-torial

I see a lot of business presentations. Some are great. Some are good. And …


Some are on the fetid side of a fluttering gust of 4,000 year-old Egyptian Mummy flatulence.


Yes, I stink too. I’ve done a lot of damage over the years with some seriously pungent presentation stinkeroos.


I never, ever, ever-never ask to do a presentation. It’s forced on me. Like taxes. But, I’m constantly invited to them for business reasons unknown to me. Over the last couple years I’ve noticed business presentations now almost always follow the same format. The company (and presenter) is great … everyone says so. Everyone loves them. The industry analysts. The customers. The press.  And, if you don’t buy from them, you’re stupid (by inference).  The presentation is all about them – at least the first 60-180 PPT. slides are. Right around business closing time they get around to asking you “What keeps you up at night? “What problem are you trying to solve?”



Now I’m a pretty deep thinker. I swim in intellectual seas deep as most parking lot puddles, but this approach always perplexes me. What keeps me up at night?  Besides having to sit through another business presentation you mean? Because that’s what I’m thinking  by then. Just once I’d like to attend a business presentation where they start with a question … about the problem or issues that need to be solved. Whatever they may be.


Do I sound like a hater?  I’m not. Do I hate all business presentations? No. There aren’t many things I rather do than sit through a business presentation. Except for maybe being boiled in oil. Or, being buried alive. Or maybe straddling and sliding down a 200-ft razor blade into a pool of rubbing alcohol.


Below is an Animotorized Cartoon-torial of a standard corporate business presentation, AKA … Gluteus-Maximus Sales 2.-Oh-No Vomitus Eruptus, as seen through the eyes of the victim (audience).