Audience-Driven or Self-Driven?

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When you design and deliver your presentation, are you “self-driven” – focused on getting the facts out so you can move on with your life (which often produces “data-dumps”) – or audience-driven – focused on making sure the presentation will resonate with the audience’s ability to accept and be persuaded by the presentation?

Several years ago, Presentation Excellence created a simple acronym to help presenters design and deliver persuasive, winning presentations: ADAP – Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations. We observed that presentations increasingly were relying on data, but not on structuring them into useful bits of intelligence that would persuade an audience. 

Adam Galinsky, president of management and organizations at Columbia Business School, identified a key reason that so many presentations are not Audience-Driven: the asymmetric control over valued resources (information) in a social situation. Through a series of experiments, he discovered that people who focus on their own power in a social relationship were significantly less likely to take other people’s perspectives.  Al Pittampalli, author of Persuadable, uses this insight to explain why a football coach wasn’t being effective, nor liked, by his team: “Powerful people tend to anchor heavily to their own opinions, expecting that other people share their views. (He) may have assumed his players were on the same page with him, even when they weren’t.”

To be audience-driven, you need to take the audience’s perspective and then craft the presentation so it resonates with their way of thinking and facilitates the decision process.  Whether a leader who feels powerful most of the time, or a junior analyst who feels powerful about the data you collected and now use to design a presentation, you need to take into account other people’s needs and interests.  In the coach’s example, he discovered his weakness just before the last year of a contract, and changed his style, saving his job and enabling him to lead the team to future victories.  

You can do the same when you design a presentation:  first consider the perspective of your audience and what you need to present. If it’s a client that’s used you several times before, trust in your credentials exists; so the focus in on why this deal is better than others available.  If the person is a first time buyer, confidence is key to buying; burying your Competitive Advantage in a footnote on page 21 (as one company recently did) will leave a buyer without a compelling reason as to why to invest in your offering – and lose the deal.  Similarly, if you have a junior analyst designing the presentation, then helping him/her understand the client-context is just as important as mastering the data.

Finally, when you present, use the time prior to the presentation to confirm your expectations concerning the audience’s receptivity to your arguments. All too often, things change since the first time you committed to the presentation. Several of our clients won deals, because the last minute insights triggered a slight pivot that turned out to be critical to helping close the deal!

What’s your experience with designing and delivering presentations that take into account the audience’s perspective and readiness for persuasion. Share your experiences so we can all benefit. 

(For more training in this area, request  group training and/or individual coaching.)