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NHS Procurement Conference Presentation Dos and Don’ts

Peter Smith is the expert in procurement who will be chairing our NHS Procurement conference in December. The objective of this conference is to help solidify NHS procurement processes, understand the Future Operating Model (FOM), harness NHS buying power more effectively and create savings for our health service.

Ahead of our conference, he has put together this handy guide as to what makes a presentation to a procurement audience valuable, insightful and, above all, useful.

You can find his full list of presentation “Dos and Don’ts” below!

Peter Smith’s NHS Procurement Presentation Dos and Don’ts

After around 35 years of attending and speaking at procurement events (conferences, workshops, lectures etc.) I have some thoughts on what makes a successful presentation.

By “successful”, I mean that the presenter gets across whatever message they aim to communicate, be that education, information, or a sales proposition, and the audience finds it worthwhile, ideally in terms of both enjoyment and usefulness in some sense.

As Chair of the Future of NHS Procurement event in December, and in the spirit of trying to help make the event as successful as possible for you and the delegates, I thought you might be interested in my views.

  • The procurement audience is not really interested in the history of your business (unless it is REALLY fascinating), how many factories or offices you have around the world (particularly if you are speaking to NHS managers who operate in one city), or even the detail of your latest financial results. We will check out those things if and when we start to work with you.
  • So no more than 2 minutes of general background on the firm – when it was founded, approximately how big it is, what you do. The same applies to you personally. Two sentences about your background is enough!
  • The audience does understand that you are there to promote your own firm, so don’t feel shy about doing so. But there are ways of making that interesting for the audience. Detailed product/service descriptions are rarely a good use of time. Similarly, actual demos (of software for instance) will lose much of the audience and can easily go wrong.  If you have an exhibition stand, you can offer to show delegates the product there.
  • We’d suggest you think of the presentation in a similar way to the wider sales process. What is the problem or issue that the audience is facing (some of them anyway), and how does your offering help to solve that? Describe the issue, put it in context, explain why it matters, then outline how you can help. A little bit of looking to the future can be included and adds interest if it is something the audience doesn’t know already – “and our new product, out later this year, will even do this …”
  • Don’t be afraid of making direct comparisons with your competition – but be honest of course. Even if a procurement executive sees the need, they will be wondering why they should buy your product and not someone else’s. Don’t criticise the competition too directly, but feel free to say, “our product does this and this which no other competitor can provide”.  And there is nothing wrong with saying “we also have the lowest cost product on the market” if that is one of your selling points!
  • Another benefit you may be able to bring to the audience is that you presumably see many organisations on the buy side, so you have an overview that each buyer may not have individually. That puts you in a good position to talk about the broader issues you see, or the best practice you have observed in some customer organisations, or provide “war stories” about positive or indeed negative things you have seen. Often, speakers only get into this when it comes to the questions, but we would suggest you can use that broader view to bring insight to the audience during the presentation.
  • Surveys, reports and similar that your organisation has done or contributed to can provide interesting content – but be careful of the “so what” factor. The number of times we have heard a speaker saying “43% of procurement directors say they don’t have the right technology ….” Well yes, we know that – so what? Check that anything of that nature is truly relevant to your message and genuinely interesting to the audience.
  • The question and answer session should be key – to get some debate going, reinforce some of your key points, and to find out if you have interested prospects in the audience. So leave a good amount of time. In a 30-minute session, I suggest you allow 5 minutes for the introduction and getting going (you will inevitably start 2 or 3 minutes late), 15 minutes of core content and 10 minutes for Q&A. Have a question you can put to the audience to kick things off in case no-one volunteers – “I mentioned the issues with managing stakeholders, has anyone found a good way of involving senior clinicians in these decisions”?
  • Humour is fine if you can pull it off, but obviously be careful! Getting some involvement or reaction from for the audience early on is another tactic which increases participation and focus (personally, I find it also relaxes me as a speaker). If you don’t have a joke (a mildly amusing remark about something in the news can often work), maybe ask a question, relevant to your topic of course – “how many people here have worked outside the NHS”? “Who has had their technology budget cut this year”?
  • Do a full timed run through (even if it means talking to yourself on the train on the way to the event) to check the timing. There is nothing more frustrating than a speaker who says, “I’ve only got a few slides, I’ll speak for 10 minutes then we can have a good discussion” and then waffles on for half an hour.
  • Speaking of slides – any slide that is on the screen for less than a minute or so is usually worthless (unless it is a clever, quick visual joke or something similar!) Equally, a slide with so much content packed onto it – words, charts, tables, diagrams – that no-one beyond the first row can read it is a waste of time too. If you have anything of a complex nature that you really want to communicate, put it on a hand-out. It is a personal thing, but I would tend to use between 6 and 10 slides for a 15-minute session. Trying to fit 30 slides into 15 minutes never works well. Not using slides is fine too – but you need to be a good and confident speaker to pull that off.
  • Presenting does not come easy for everyone but do try and bring some energy and enthusiasm to the session. If you look or sound like you don’t want to be here with us, or it is clear that you haven’t put much effort into the session, why should the audience feel positive about it?

Good luck!

Peter Smith MCIPS, MA

If you’d like to meet Peter at our Future of NHS Procurement conference, you can learn more about the event and book your complimentary places here.

1 Comment

One thought on “NHS Procurement Conference Presentation Dos and Don’ts

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