Challenge Yourself Before Presenting

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How do you overcome incorrect assumptions and cognitive biases that limit you from seeing things clearly?

If you’re committed to effective planning and want to strategically execute on a plan, then finding a way to overcome errors Is critical. If you’re responsible for government security and intelligence, doing so can be the difference between life and death. If you’re making an investor, management, board, marketing or other presentation, success may well depend on discovering the weaknesses in your supposedly “compelling” presentation before delivering it.

Bryce Hoffman, in Red Teaming: How Your Business Can Conquer the Competition by Challenging Everything, describes the importance of challenging one’s plan before launching it to avoid groupthink and disasters. red team is a group that plays the role of an adversary to provide feedback from an actor’s actions and perspective. Red teams are usually used in many fields, especially icybersecurityairport securitylaw enforcement, the military and intelligence agencies.  But they can also be used in business cases, by bringing in an outside perspective, and possibly additional expertise, with which to challenge a plan which could lead to a product, service or presentation failure, can avoid a potential disaster.  

For instance, he shares the story behind Coca Cola’s decision in the late 1980s to confront the results of the popular Pepsi Challenge: in blind taste tests people preferred Pepsi to Coke.  Coca Cola studied the issue using hundreds of thousands of survey participants and hundreds of focus group participants. Based on their analysis, the company introduced Coca Cola with a new formula. At first it was well received. But after thousands protested, 78 days later it offered both Classic and New Coke.

How did the mistake happen? The availability bias was key. The company relied on the opinion of the larger group of survey participants even though the focus groups opposed the product! The focus group experienced the emotional responses to losing a favorite brand and like a “red team” challenged the plan with their additional insights.

Before you take your plans and make your presentation, do you use a “red team” to challenge assumptions? Are you relying on the people with a vested interest in launching the plan? Are you relying on the company endorsed presentation design team who is following the former’s specifications?

Or, are you also using an independent “red team” to challenge content, style and delivery assumptions?

If you’re not sure of the value of having a “red team” execute your plan, read the book to learn about the countless businesses who wasted time and resources to make a wrong decision without being properly challenged! As Presentation Excellence clients know, we use our decades long experience with over 5000 clients to give us a fresh perspective and help you challenge assumptions.