The Apprentice Series 12 Line Up

The Apprentice Final: Learning to Present

Happy New Year readers. I hope you got some time to put your feet up in front of the TV over Christmas. As running a reality TV show seems like the route to power these days I thought I had better look at season 12 of ‘The Apprentice’ that finished just before Christmas on BBC1.

I’ve always had a whole bunch of reservations about ‘The Apprentice’ – not least the notion that all business is cut throat, that all successful people are pompous one-dimensional characters who speak in a strange clichés and that the majority of those involved seem not to have watched any of the eleven seasons that went before and, if they did, they learned absolutely nothing! But all that aside, ‘The Apprentice’ can be great TV (the early ratings suggest season 12 has held up reasonably well) and does contain some truths that are well worth noting.

This year’s eventual runner-up was an interesting case in point. In the semi-final, Courtney Wood was taken to task in the entirely unrealistic interviews for his failure to project himself effectively or to speak with sufficient passion to be convincing in a pitch. One of my friends watching the show messaged me asking, “could you do anything with him?”. I replied, “Of course – everybody can present better when they learn the skills”.

I’ve seen it happen so often. The product is great, the team is convincing but the presentation is a catastrophe, nobody is listening and the sale is lost by default. Tragic – and entirely avoidable – because presenting is a learnt skill, not a gift from some higher power. Some people are naturals, sure, but many more can learn to be professional – and that’s enough. All we want is the prospect’s attention to be focussed on what you offer and what it means to them. But too often unprofessional ‘form’ can detract from credible content.

Come the final, 29 year-old Courtney addressed the issue with a crash course of presentation training. Some of it was gimmicky – but it still got him to think about how he could come across more professionally. Having managed to do considerably better and, importantly, having addressed a perceived weakness and proved he could improve considerably, Courtney still lost – but on the merits of his business proposal not by default because of his lack of pitching ability.

Presenting to an audience is and will remain an important tactic for B2B sales and marketing. In business with which I’ve been involved I’ve always made the case for assessing the presentation performance of all the key staff is essential and, rather than throwing them into the deep end, providing the training that ensures it’s the company’s message rather than the mumbling salesman is what the audience remember. Just bear in mind that just because their cv said the new salesman has ‘excellent communication skills’ and even did a half-decent interview it really doesn’t guarantee they can stand up and talk in front of an audience – but they can learn.

If, as I can mystically feel some of you thinking, the webinar or video will reach far more people than presenting in person, remember that presenting effectively on screen require a different skill set again. But even in the age of the webinar and SEO-based content marketing at some point in high value B2B sales cycles you are going to have to pitch and if it’s investment you are after you’ll need to do a great pitch. Remember people buy into people as much as they buy into proposals or business plans.

I’ve been helping people to become better presenters for a long time now, you’ve probably seen some of them in action, and I know it pays to develop your presenters and sales folk. I won’t promise they will win a reality show but I can guarantee that with the right presentation training your people will have the knowledge and techniques to improve and won’t have any excuse for losing sales by default.


If you would like to take advantage of Public Impact’s experience of enhancing presentation skill then click this link to get in touch.