Lessons from a Tufts alum on making the best presentations!

I've had the privilege of teaching at MIT and Tufts for 20 and 15 years respectively. The experience...

  • Blends in perfectly with my other passion of consulting in sales, marketing and business planning
  • Reminds me of just how much I still do not know, and my requirement to be a life-long student
  • Provides me with continuing opportunities to catch up with and engage my alums.

Tufts Fallin in my Tufts marketing course, I limit the outside speakers to solid experts in their fields, and in the majority of cases, invite in recent Tufts alums to speak on specific topics. 

So far this semester,  Abby Curran, Senior Consultant from Simon Kurcher has lectured on pricing, Brian Bresee, Director of NA Partnership Sales at Hubspot, has instructed us on blogging, and last week Abha Gallewale, Manager of Global Social Strategy at ASICS, discussed specifics of social media.  Ramiro Sarabia, Brand Partnerships Manager at TicToc, is on tap for this afternoon, followed by Ashley McManus, Director of Marketing at Affectiva, and Marketing Guru, Jamie Turner next week. 

All experts, all very engaging and, in the eyes and minds of many of my students, they elicit... "how do I get to do what they do?" about their own careers.

Two weeks ago, in our mid-term presentations, the content of which was excellent, I felt that I could do a much better job than I usually do in terms of providing the students with "best practices" to enhance their presentation skills.  In fact, we do "best practices" every week with six students a week presenting their own value propositions with constructive comments from the rest of the class.  I also provide my own content on presentations, which is on our Derby Management site, along with providing and a solid reference book from HBR.  Even with all of that, I've always felt that I could do a better job in what I provide as content.

Welcome Zach Merchant...

Which led me to invite Zach Merchant, a Tufts 2017 alum, to class two weeks ago.  Zach and I have been close ever since he was a junior in my course, and I learned at that time that he was a reporter at a weekly newspaper in Arlington, MA where I went to high school.  Zach and I have worked closely together as he launched his TV career as a reporter and weekend anchor in Georgia, and most recently we talked in detail about his next career step which recently brought him to WCBS in Washington as a reporter while he attends Georgetown Law.  

I've seen Zach reporting at the anchor desk where everything was perfectly in place, and I've seen him working at night in sheeting rain covering floods in rural Georgia while holding his iPhone as his only recording device.  Always polished, always focused and always appropriate to the specific presentation, so I knew he would be perfect in class, which he was.  I thought that I would share with you today his Three Big Ideas about making the perfect presentations.  

Three Big Ideas on Presentations from Zach.

1. Be clear on the core essence of what you are saying.  Define your North Star!

  • Focus on "What do I need to say?"
  • Focus on "How do I want to say it?"
  • Ask yourself, "Did I deliver those two elements?"  If not, go back and figure it out before presenting.

2.  Create "Moments" and string those together from the opening to the conclusion

  • Take stock of the key moments that are critical to your story.
  • Ask... "Did I really define what's hot and interesting?" 
  • Grab the viewers in what's interesting to them and play your storyline just to that. 
  • Be data-heavy.
  • Ask yourself... "Where are the holes in the story?"
  • Most importantly, be transparent and honest.  

3.  Define the Back Stop

  • When your presentation is finished, but before you deliver it, objectively ask...
  • "Is where I am now, where I expected to be?"
  • If it is not, then redo the presentation until you get to where you need to be.

What I've learned after all of these years of teaching and also consulting for decades with a large number of very diverse companies in a broad array of markets and industries is that very direct communication using the basic principles of making presentations often count as much as the actual content!

Just 30 more selling days left

Consider Zach's 3 Big Ideas as you look making the best of your time during the remaining 30 pre-Christmas selling days left in the quarter! 

It's at this time of year at Tufts...

Marketing Plan-1During this time of every November, I begin looking for six to eight new marketing projects for the spring semester.  The syllabus and an outline of the projects always go out on December 26th (an easy date for me to remember), and the students have one week to make their first and second choice decisions and get send me a bio so that I can balance the teams in terms of their experience.

This semester, the six companies we selected from 21 entries include...

  • 2 well-funded startups looking to develop their first professional marketing plans
  • 1 large corporation in the amusement business for one of their new market sectors 
  • A well-established, SaaS company in the talent management space for a new product 
  • A well-established SaaS company in the payment space.  This is the 10th project with them.
  • A well-established healthcare service company.  This is the 2nd project with them.

There's no cost for this, but it does require a commitment of time...just as it would with a marketing agency. If you have a need and would like to participate, just connect with me at jack@derbymanagement.com, and I will set up a call to discuss or just send you the instructions, and then we can do a call.


Jobs-3I have many gifted 2020 alums and 2021 Seniors who are highly capable and are looking for entry level sales and marketing positions.  My computer science majors are not having any difficulty in finding jobs, nor are my finance-oriented students who have been interning for the last two summers in Wall Street firms.  Given the state of the current economic questioning, the same cannot be said for many of my other students and recent alums. 

If you are considering hiring an entry-level person as...

  • a marketing or sales intern part time for the spring semester and/or full time for the summer 
  • a full time marketing or sales person who graduated in May ( I have 2)
  • a full time marketing person graduating with an MBA from BU in May.
  • a full time marketing or sales senior graduating in December  (I have 1) 
  • a full time marketing or sales senior graduating in May  ( I have many)

Just connect with me since I have numbers of bright, hard-working, and driven individuals that I would highly recommend...all of whom, of course come with "The Jack Derby Seal of Approval" .

Jack and Tufts Entrepreneurship Center -1


If at any time, you have a need for a confidential sounding board in business planning or for Sales or Marketing, just connect with me at any time.  Text or email me, and I will quickly set up a call. 

I'm a pretty good listener. 

Obviously, no cost for a call or two; just an opportunity to listen intently and make a few recommendations based on decades of experience.



Tags: sales coach, sales effectiveness, marketing effectiveness, sales jobs, Tufts marketing projects, free marketing projects from universities, value propositions, jack derby professor at Tufts