Present like Madmen

After seven exciting years of smoke-filled rooms, slick haircuts and a lot of drama, the HBO TV show Mad Men is finally drawing to a close. Not only has it made advertising sexier, but it’s made us want to put on a bespoke suit and tell Lucky Strike how to save their business with  a cigarette in one hand and a whisky in the other. If you also want to convince your audience like Don Draper, then it might be time to start meeting like Mad Men.

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is OK.” –Don Draper,  Mad Men

Don Draper is cold and distant character who keeps people at arm’s length without giving much away. This is, incidentally, an issue that many successful managers encounter. Only during his pitches do his audiences establish a connection with him. This doesn’t stem from his research ability or subject knowledge, but from his knack of constructing a story around a punchline. A short anecdote at the beginning or the end of your presentation will not only help your audience connect with you, but it also generates a more personal atmosphere. You can establish a rapport built on a common understanding or accepted truth. Once you are on a friendly level with your audience, it becomes easier to convince them, as the age-old saying goes: “people buy from people they know, like and trust.”

Be sure to choose a story that fits the mood of your presentation. There are different types of stories to be observed in Mad Men. The “Purpose Story” connects a product to its function, demonstrating and heightening its fundamental importance. We can find the “Proof Story” which describes how others have overcome a similar situation. If you cannot think of a story that has already happened, a last resort is always the “What if?” or “Imagine” story. The outcome could be a solution to a problem or an idealistic new world vision. Throughout the show, we see many examples of this used to powerful effect.

Besides a good story, the right setting plays a decisive role in determining the atmosphere of your  meeting. If you work in a midcentury chic styled-out office, in the 25th floor of a New York Skyscraper, you can probably stop reading now. For everyone else, I would recommend to start looking for the perfect space to transform the mood from routine to extraordinary. While unique interior design is hard to source in public venues, it can regularly be found in private spaces. Unfortunately, the dynamic potential that private apartments possess to host business meetings or workshops is constantly overlooked by companies, and with little excuse. If you are the Don Draper kind, you will love the Nomad Apartment in Berlin. With an edgy, yet irresistibly classy look, complete with concierge service, this space can turn any high-level pitch into a success-story.

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Judging from Roger Sterling’s white office, he wouldn’t mind inviting partners for a meeting inthe Malzloft. Alternatively, if you want to engage with your audience on a more personal level, a good old fashioned bar can lend your meeting the meaningful and honest vibe to yield results, true Mad Men style.

Once the location is secured, it’s time to think about the workshop structure. At this point, there is no point resorting back to old habits. Instead of using powerpoint, implement cardboard moodboards as a fresh way of presenting ideas. Instead of presenting bullet points that describe your new vision in words, try and illustrate it with experimental visual language. This does not just apply to high-flying strategies, but can be used in any project. The visualization of a common goal is one of the key factors in uniting a team.

If you want to present like a Mad Man, you need:

  • A powerful story
  • Serious dress code to emphasize the importance of the occasion
  • Classy and chic location
  • Grown up drinks: Old Fashioned, Horse’s Neck, Manhattan or Martini