Communicate for Change

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Prospects come to Presentation Excellence because they want to communicate a message that will inspire, energize, engage and/or empower another party to CHANGE their behaviors. Whether  the focus is investing in a new venture, supporting the development of a new service/product, increasing the amount they allocate to retirement savings, becoming more engaged in a company’s new strategy, or the millions of other reasons for communicating, if the audience doesn’t ultimately act on the message, the presentation failed.  

Decision-making involves both logical and emotional components: I have to be comfortable with listening and accepting the message, based on the setting, trust-relationship with speaker, value of the message and how the message is delivered.  In other words, there is both an art and science to making the presentation compelling. Unfortunately, too many people make presentations, especially those using PowerPoint, focus almost exclusively on the logic –the facts and more facts to support; the result is that much of the data overwhelms the audience which detracts from the presentation’s value. 

For example, an investor relations person had a 42 page deck to convince people to buy into a fund. When asked whether there was a single competitive advantage that the fund and company presented, she said yes. It took 2 minutes to find it – in a footnote on pager 20.

Brent Gleeson, in TakingPoint: A Navy Seal’s 10 Fail-Safe Principles for Leading through Change, picks up on the art side, with his five T’s of Change communications:

  • Technique.  How a message is delivered, especially given the level of the audience’s initial alignment with it, is key to the extent that it will be compelling or not.  You need a well-defined communication strategy that takes into account emotional connections.
  • Timing.  Sometimes a message is complicated, and presenting all the information at one can be overwhelming. Time the components, staggering some of the details to ensure audience absorption. Also, repetition of key elements of a difficult-to-grasp message is critical.  Multiple opportunities to deliver a message increases reception exponentially.
  • Tools. Using multiple media, in a world where different generations “tune-in” differently will significantly improve acceptance of the message. Make sure the message has sharable components (e.g., buzzwords, catch-phrases) so people can share it with others and thereby create a viral loop.) 
  • Temperament. Since change is scary and stressful, maintain a positive mental attitude in the delivery. The goal is to invigorate and excite people if possible, or at least transfer a calmness to the audience.
  • Transparency. Trust underlies “buying-in” to your proposition. When things go wrong, address it in real-time, let your partners know about it. Share what you plan to do get things back on track, and engage the team in participating.

Achieve the first goal of gaining acceptance for change, then gain acceptance for the specific proposal. You usually can modify proposal details; you can’t go back and establish trust and credibility if you didn’t do it the first time!   Have you discovered additional ways of mastering the art-and –science of delivering compelling presentations? If so, share them with us.