You want to have a few things clear in your mind before you ever get up to make a presentation. This is true whether you’re speaking to a few people around a conference table, dozens in a lecture-style setting, or hundreds or even thousands at a conference or event.
What journey will you take the audience on, and what is the outcome you want, are two critical questions. And both must be run through the filter of who your listeners are and how to reach them best to get the outcome you want.
The smaller the group the more important to know something about the individuals themselves.
When 3C Comms is working with a client preparing for an important internal presentation or a critical customer interaction, these are five critical questions we like to review – try answering each one with your next big project in mind.
1. Who can say yes?
When you get to your call to action, you have to know who is going to get the last word. You’re in there asking for something – budget for a project, their signature to green-light the sale, permission to move forward with the recommendation you are making. You had better identify the key decision-maker and make sure your strongest points are geared to what you know that person needs to hear.
2. Who influences the decision maker, and how?
Play the politics. Sometimes this is as easy as knowing the org chart – who does the big boss rely on for financial input? Marketing? HR? Sometimes it’s harder – who are the staff she inherited and who has she placed in their position? This could be a proxy for assessing who she trusts. Who has she listened to in the past?
3. How do the people in the room feel about me/my idea?
Like the old line about a poker game, if you don’t know who’s the mark…it’s you! If you don’t already know how the people around the table are disposed toward your call to action, or if you can’t at least guess as to their top questions about your idea, you are already behind. Sometimes this is inevitable – as when a prospective client brings his team to a meeting unexpectedly. But if you know who’s going to be in the room, research and pre-work are vital.
4. How do I move this audience in my direction?
Do you have a strategy for getting the whole room from their initial inclination (their “Point A”) to the place you want them when you finish (your “Point B”)? Understanding each person’s key issues and taking care to address them, or to sway the more powerful players in the room so that the supporting folks think twice about raising serious objection, is smart planning.
5. Have I done my homework?
When you are selling, whether it’s an actual sale of goods or service, or promoting an idea that others need to buy into (note the word “buy,” which implies a sale, right?), you should not make the presentation to the conference room your one and only shot. Some of those in the room should be ready to help you prepare – reviewing slides and logic before the big meeting, helping you analyze personalities and anticipate questions, navigating the political minefield that sometimes exists in corporate or even nonprofit and volunteer settings. Use your preparation time to test drive ideas and influence points, and to prepare for the tough questions.
Each of these items could be drawn out to more granular levels, and there are other considerations to take into account. If you start with these five, however, you’ll increase your chances of getting the “yes” you want, by preparing the right presentation, one that is audience-focused and benefit-led…for precisely the right people.