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Too many opinions spoil a presentation

Ad-libs
by John Foust
 
Newspaper Advertising Trainer – Raleigh, NC

Back when I was in the ad agency business, I made a logo presentation that turned into a fiasco. It was an uncomfortable reminder of the importance of a presentation environment.

This particular client was a real estate development company which was on a fast growth track. They were going through a name change and needed a sleek new brand identity for their newspaper ads, stationery and signage. We had been through preliminary meetings and this was the unveiling of (what I thought was) the final version of the logo.

The meeting started innocently enough. Dan, the company president, and I were in his office. We reviewed our previous strategy conversations and I summarized their long-term corporate image plans. When I showed the logo design, his face lit up in a big smile. He said, “That’s exactly what we need,” and described the steps they could take to replace their existing logo. Then he said, “Let’s get a second opinion,” walked out of his office and returned a minute later with their office manager. When she frowned and said she liked the old logo better, I could see Don’s enthusiasm fading. She had not participated in our strategy meetings – and she had no knowledge of the reasoning behind a logo change – but all of a sudden, she had become a key influencer in the decision process.

Dan said, “Wait here. Let’s get another opinion.” He invited several more people into his office. Within minutes, a group was huddled around his desk, critiquing the logo that I had spent so much time designing. They seemed to be competing with each other to see who could make the most negative comments. It was a selling nightmare. They ignored my efforts to steer the conversation back on track.

The incident seems comical now, but it wasn’t funny when it happened. One person said she didn’t like the logo, because it had one of the colors in the Romanian flag. I checked later and learned that the Romanian flag is blue, yellow and red (I also learned that she was born in Romania, the only possible explanation for such a strange comment.)

It was no surprise that Dan rejected the logo design. Although he was a corporate executive, he frequently struggled with decisions. His attempt to get objective input from others had created a chaotic decision-making environment. The only solution was for me to go back to the drawing board to tweak the idea. When I presented that one, I explained that he was the only one in the company who was in position to make a fair judgment. I truly believed that he was uniquely qualified to see the big picture and make the decision. Fortunately, he took the compliment to heart and we had a positive one-to-one meeting which resulted in a sale.

The lesson was crystal clear. Too many opinions spoil a presentation. Do everything you can to limit the number of decision makers in the room.

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(c) Copyright 2018 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: john@johnfoust.com