When Context Matters, Win with ADAP

First, thanks for sharing: We love it when Presentation Excellence members share with us their example of how our ADAP formula (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations) solves a presenters’ dilemma. When people make presentations, we focus on content, format, media, and delivery skills; but sometimes the key to impact requires focusing on Context.

Investor Business daily recently shared an observation by Retired General Stanley McChrystal (who led the successful “surge” in the Iraq war) on leadership.  “Leaders have got to be able to understand the context in which they’re operating. You lead a group of soldiers differently on Monday morning than you do Friday afternoon.”

For those of us who are “office warriors”, we know that’s true. People come to work at the beginning of a week, looking forward to starting a productive week. By Friday, their focus is more likely to be bringing the week to a successful conclusion. When we started in Vietnam, there was all kinds of optimism and a willingness to keep investing in the cause. In the end, we just wanted to get out quickly. We’re seeing a similar scenario in Afghanistan.

It made me think of how I train my presentation warriors to win their battles when their goal is to motivate and energize an audience. Here are three examples.

·   If possible, pick a time slot when the audience is most receptive to engaging with you. For instance, the first speaker at a conference has that advantage. Whereas the speaker after lunch is likely to have a more distracted (and tired) audience. And if you’re chosen for that slot, you need to compensate by creating keeping your audience engaged. (At a conference for emerging growth companies, they asked me to be the key after-lunch speaker. Why that slot? “Because you know how to engage a lethargic audience.” (They were right, by getting off the podium and walking around the audience and I stayed energized.)

·   As an IR specialist, I help CEOs design powerful investor presentations. At an investor conference, speakers usually get a 30-minute slot. My clients usually present for 20 minutes so the audience can ask the questions we want them to ask, and demonstrate our expertise. However, in about 25% of the cases, something changes the schedule (e.g., a fire drill, equipment failures). Most presenters then rush their 25-30 minute presentation in the 15-minute allotment – and are less effective. My clients use a second, 15 minute, presentation that is power-packed and eliminates the need to rush. The contrast blows the audience away!

·   An executive engaged us to solve a problem: survival. His department was being moved; one potential supervisor was a fan of his; the other wasn’t. His once chance to influence the decision was at the upcoming Board meeting at which he was going to present for the first time ever. After working on the presentation itself, we took a look at the meeting room. The Board table had 40 seats, with the chairman at one end and the speaker platform at the other. We needed to bring the two together. So we arranged for him to stand at the middle of the table – bring in him closer to the Chairman and also to the Executive for whom he wanted to work. As a result, all three were engaged in the conversation that accompanied the presentation – and he became his boss. (Unfortunately, a few years later, that boss left and he moved to the other person’s division – and was let go within months!)

So, when you plan your presentation focus on the presentation itself, your skills, the audience’s needs, and the context in which the presentation will occur. Do it right, and the ADAP formula will work for you, too!

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