Presentations and Communication

Reframe Your Presentation Once You Truly Know Your Audience

No two people are truly identical. Similarly, the reason each member of an audience comes to hear your presentation is not the same. Yes, there is a common denominator – but each person has a different approach and your points have to resonate with the recipient. 

This challenge has increased substantially during the pandemic as groups attend Zoom and Team meetings, with speakers showing up at the last minute and not really understanding the individual needs within the audience. As we move back to in-person meetings, this approach will no longer be acceptable.

For instance, people take different approaches when faced with a challenge. Some are:

  • Learners –  focused on understanding the context;
  • Problem solvers – focused on identifying causes and possible solutions;
  • Decision-makers – focused on taking action.

Similarly, some are:

  • Individuals – seeking information with which to make their decision.
  • Members of teams – responsible for gathering information and sharing it so others can make a decision
  • Leaders of teams – responsible for reframing the information gathered and presenting it so the team makes the “fight” decision

One last example. Imagine you’re speaking to a company about forging a stronger culture. There are many issues that might be on the mind of different individuals.  

  • What’s the most important content issue: trust, respect, continuous improvement?  
  • What’s the biggest process issue: onboarding, ongoing communication, understanding? 
  • What’s the biggest audience-relationship issues: employees-to-employees, employees-to customers, leaders/management to workers?

So, as you return to the world of in-person presentations, take the extra time to truly understand your audience and gear your presentation to meet their primary needs!

What Mistakes are You Making?

When we prepare presentations and deliver them, we make lots of decisions concerning data, content, conclusions, when and how to present them, and what approach to use. 

Even the smartest people make mistakes.  In times of economic, social and other turbulence, and when working under time-pressures, it makes sense to try to do everything possible to avoid making them. Some may be reversible – but others are not. Remember, you have only one chance to make a favorable first impression, and there’s only one chance to make a final presentation to a buyer.

Recently, Jeff Hayden noted that there are several categories of decision-making errors.  To help you avoid some or all of these seven types of  classic strategic mistakes, here they are:

  1. Thinking you have more information than you actually do
  2. Thinking you already know enough
  3. Thinking you know more about what people want or need than you really do
  4. Solving a problem with a solution that doesn’t work
  5. Confusing action with results
  6. Mistaking inaction for patience or wisdom
  7. Allowing for compound errors:  letting one bad decision lead to other bad decisions.  (With “cascade iatrogenesis”, erroneously analyzing data can create entirely new problems, including some with irreversible outcomes).

Excellence presentation coaches focus not just on the positive skills you need to acquire to design and present a great presentation, but also how to avoid some of these errors.  For instance, if your audience is a member of a team that will make a decision, convincing the “buyer” of the wisdom to buy is only part of the solution; her/his ability to communicate it perfectly to the rest of the team all-too-often- determines whether they buy into it or not.

Which errors do you mostly commit? What can you do to avoid them?  We’re here to help!

Time to Get to Know Your Clients Better?

A keystone of Presentation Excellence training is ADAP – making sure that all your presentations are Audience Drive, Authentic Presentations.  After the pandemic, home lockdowns, and return to virtual and hybrid offices, this principle applies not only to formal presentations, but also the information ones with workers we’re no longer interacting with regularly – and therefore may not be as connected as we once were. The current economic slowdown or recession heightens the importance of really knowing our audience and making sure what we say and do resonates with them, now.

Soren Kaplan’s article, Empathy: The Currency of Human Connection and Innovation, drives this point home. 

Over the past two years, people have changed in ways we may not readily understand. Whether we’re communicating with clients/customers, employees, investors, strategic allies, etc., understanding what the audience needs to know at any given time, translates into having an empathetic relationship with them. We should not assume that we understand our customers current needs based on prior experiences. Before preparing the presentation, immerse yourself in their world. Find out what their needs are, and if appropriate, include innovations that will meet their newly developed needs. That will generate opportunities. 

Take to heart his recommendation that you connect with a customer to understand their needs based on what they now:

  • Explicitly say
  • Emotionally evoke
  • Think about
  • Do in public and private

By doing so, you will convert observations into insights; that will enable you to provide more value to the customer and close the deal.

A New Approach to Negotiation

As we ease our way into the post-pandemic period, we’re discovering the need to brush-up and/or acquire many different presentation skills in order to succeed in adapting to the changed world.   

When we launched Presentation Excellence over two decades ago, clients asked us to not only help them design and deliver winning investor, sales, marketing, and management presentations, but also with other interactions, including negotiations, job interviews, networking, and connections, and forging strategic partnerships.

For instance, the Great Resignation – a mass exodus of 48+ million employees – has created a need for workers to be more authentic when determining the lifestyle and type of work they want for the next few years before applying for jobs. Similarly, employers need to retool how they present their companies’ culture and career opportunities for both new candidates and existing staff to increase the odds of a fit for retention and future leadership.  Both sides are busy figuring out how to 

Negotiation skills is another area that’s taken on increased importance. Whether you’re moving to a new apartment or house, your business is trying to get out of a lease because workers are now virtual or hybrid; or your company is dealing with slower supply chains, inflationary cost increases, or workers who want virtual or hybrid work, you’re going to be negotiating.

Given the importance of negotiations, and my personal interest in it (e.g., teaching it at the MBA level), we offered individual and group negotiation training to interested clients.  You may already be familiar with classic books such as Getting to Yes by Harvard’s Fisher and Ury, You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen (as well as his many other books!), and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. My personal favorite, which I use in my courses, is Negotiation Genius by Malhotra and Bazerman.

A new approach to negotiation has been offered by Yale’s Barry Nalebuff and I thought I’d bring it to your attention. In Split the Pie: A Radical Way to Negotiate. While most negotiation approaches view the entire deal that’s to be negotiated as the “pie”, Nalebuff focuses the “pie” on what’s really at stake: the “Zone of Possible Agreement” (aka ZOPA). By doing so, he concentrates on the additional value created through an agreement to work together. The book is filled with examples in which his approach makes sense. He notes that he used the approach to negotiate the sale of Honest Tea, a company he co founded, to Coca-Cola. 

One example shows how two people (Alice and Bob) split a 12 piece pizza pie under interesting conditions set by the pizza shop owner. If they don’t reach an agreement, then they will only get half the pie (6 slices) with 4 slices going to Alice and 2 to He shares three alternative approaches that could be used. Power (Alice gets 4 vs.2 of the remaining 6, as she did with the first 6, giving her 8 vs. 4 at the end, Equality (both deserve half of the full pizza, so Bob gets 4 vs. 2 of the remaining 6 slices, so they both get 6 at the end, or his Split the Pie solution, they split the remaining 6, giving Alice a total of 7 vs. 5 for Bob.

The key to all successful preparations, regardless of which approach you use, is to be prepared. Understand what your real interests are, and what those of the other side are: what does each of you want and why. What is your BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement?  In a fair, collaborative negotiation, focus on both sides’ interests as present and negotiate to an agreement. Don’t let the positions each side stakes out at the beginning, which often are designed to “anchor” the negotiation become the guiding star.

Good luck in your negotiations. May they all be successful.

The Key to All Communication is Listening

You’ve probably heard that since we have two ears and one mouth, our communications should follow the same proportion – spend twice as much time listening as speaking.

Presenters often ask if this applies to situations where information is delivered to an audience within a short time span, such as a 30 minute investor presentation or webinar.  The answer is yes, by using two time periods: one before and one after the presentation you actually deliver.

The first IS driven by the ADAP formula (i.e. Audience Driven, Authentic Presentations). Listening means understanding your audience’s interests before you even meet based on prior direct or indirect relationships. The more thoroughly you prepare to deliver the story with supportive facts and call to actions, the more effective you will be.

For instance: What does the audience want to know, how will they feel about it, and what resistances are there? How many other people have to be involved to make the decision? Etc.  Much of this can be gleaned from the context of the meeting and prior experiences. Today, most non-angel investors represent a group. Therefore she/he will not make a final decision based on that one presentation; instead she/he first has to present the information to others involved in the decision-process. (That means the presentation has to be one which she/he can communicate effectively on behalf of the original presenter! If there is too much jargon and not enough connections between the issues discussed, that might not be possible!)

Second, always leave time at the end for questions and comments – so you can listen to what’s really on the mind of the audience. For instance, at many investor and other conferences, speakers often are given 30 minute slots. Leave at least one-third of that time for questions and comments, with the goal of listening, learning and responding to the needs.

President Lincoln believed that we should spend more time sharpening our saw/hatchet before chopping trees; spend more time “listening” to the needs of your audience than delivering the content.

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August 2022