Paul Tomes

My first real taste of creating presentations began in 1983.  I was approached by New York based ad agency BBDO, to help set up Ideadata, the first computer generated graphics bureau in South Africa.

We produced 35mm presentation slides and overhead transparencies (remember those?). The equipment was the same imaging system used to bring pictures from the Viking and Voyager space probes back to earth as radio signals. These could then be processed on to film for analysis.

It was an extraordinary period in my life … creating a business with cutting edge technology,  when only a handful of people were able to justify having the original IBM PC or Apple 11e on their desk. Both of which (if I recall correctly) came equipped with just 64K of memory!  We operated a 24 hour  service, with 70+ people ready to convert a client’s hand-written notes into slides … literally overnight.

Presenters were stuck in an old school presentation paradigm

Over the next three years I watched a gap evolve. Presentation slides had become world-class, but presenters were still stuck in an ‘old school’ presentation paradigm.  Nervous, long-winded and delivered too slowly for a world that had been flung into the fast-lane.  At the time, presentation skills training wasn’t considered an essential business skill.
This was soon to change.

Business Presentation Group

In 1986, along with Peter Thomas, I founded Business Presentation Skills, the first training company of it’s kind in South Africa.  It’s still going strong today and I remain a shareholder of Business Presentation Group.

A large part of our success was the development of the Audience Thought Model.  Presenters now had a tool that made it easier to strategise and sequence the content … presenting information the way their audience would prefer to hear it, instead of how they would intuitively want to present.

Presentation skills training is now an essential business life skill for anyone who needs to articulate ideas and opinions in meetings, on a day-to-day basis.  When the stakes are raised and a high impact presentation is needed, this requires a new level of staging. Wow factor is mandatory and visuals and presentation delivery style, need to be on the equivalent of steroids.  Odds are, you have been subjected to new business pitches that don’t sound new? …  and sterile conference presentations that run the risk of the audience losing the will to live, before the mid-morning tea-break?

Death-by-Powerpoint is actually death point-by-point!

Pitch … tell a story that moves people

In 2008, I made a decision to focus on consulting directly with clients, hell-bent on adding more spark and creativity to business pitches, roadshows, conferences, and corporate videos.   I work with a diverse range of clients, however each assignment invariably starts with the same challenge … how to turn their information into a compelling story … a story that will really move people.

The focus can then shift to how the story is told … sourcing and creating high impact visuals and other devices for clarity and retention. Finally, coaching each presenter requires finding his or her natural style and taking this to a new level. When the stakes are high, presentations at this standard are show business.  Only a small percentage of leadership in organisations really get this.
Whilst this all sounds like more than a full-time job … I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a group of exceptionally talented people. Each person works independently and joins the team, when their specialist skills are needed. Collectively we call ourselves Pitch.

And in between creating presentations and talking at conferences? …

I live in Hout Bay, Cape Town, with my wife and two labradors, have two grown up daughters, play drums in a jazz band that only does gigs for charity, ride a recumbent trike (because I get more exercise per kilometre, and downhills are the closest thing you’ll ever get to flying) … and every now and then, sail anything I can lay my hands on.

Paul

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