I’ll confess that I wasn’t familiar Bruce’s name either. I came across him when I was researching the processes that different performers use to create a finished recording that audiences find irresistible.
On a quest like this, where better to start than with Michael Jackson’s Thriller - the best selling album of all time. Understanding how to create a work of art that appeals on this scale, I reasoned, ought to tell us something about creating and honing a winning sales presentation.
Jackson’s creative process was intriguing. Having limited skills as an instrumentalist he composed by singing all of the parts for guitars, strings, bass, brass and all of the other sounds that were in his head. These were converted to musical notation by the legendary producer and composer Quincy Jones.
Then, it was into the studio with the musicians who would bring their skills to the evolving work. Pulling it all together, not just replicate but enhance and improve the original vision, was sound engineer Bruce Swedien.
You could easily dismiss the engineer as the guy who twiddles the knobs and gets the balance right. But Bruce’s input was far more profound and important. From ‘tuning’ the studio, to the precise recording techniques and equipment used, Swedien was instrumental (sorry) in creating the sound, atmosphere and electricity of the recording.
If you’re interested you can read more about how Swedien worked here.
The whole process was meticulous, highly organised and complex. It involved many iterations to achieve perfection and many people with specific skills and a defined role. Just as important, each person involved brought something of themselves - especially Bruce. They weren’t just fulfilling a role that ‘any other Joe’ could have done.
Miss any of these components or shortcut the process and Thriller wouldn’t have quite the same appeal or impact.
So, back to the more mundane world of sales presentations. The good news is that you only need to sell your presentation to a handful of people - not 60 odd million. But I would argue you can apply the same principles.
The realisation of what you need to tell your client is just the start. Working out how you are going to tell them, in a way that they’ll remember and respond to, is where the hard graft starts. And you may need a professional like Bruce Swedien to help you convert a collection of parts into an appealing finished work.