Getting The Basics Right

Getting the basics right

This might be very obvious but not as common as you would expect. A strong foundation - will help build confidence. That confidence will show be visible in your presentation.

Chance favors the prepared mind.

Louis Pasteur, Microbiologist, Chemist and Inventor Lecture, University of Lille (December 7, 1854)

Know your why?

Do you know who your audience is? what their motives are and what is the key message for them. Even more important - why should they care to listen to you.

There was a lot of ground covered in the statement above - let me try and unpack that a bit. It’s not unusual for your audience to have several conflicting priorities. These coupled with a fair share of distractions are not uncommon. Unless they are seeking to hear from you on request - you will need to work keeping them engaged. The key to keeping them engaged would be being aware of the questions

How much time do you have?

I discuss this often in my coaching conversations - A key meeting isn’t is not about the presentation. A meeting would involve introductions, level setting, landing an idea. This is usually followed by feedback, prioritization, and agreement on the next steps. If you are lucky you would even get some owners for each of them.

Looking at the bigger picture it is evident - for a meaningful engagement - all these need to happen. Planning for the duration and tweak as you go along.

Unless you are the star of the show - and there is a pre-allocated time slot, you would need to stay on top of the delivery plan.

What is your storyline?

Have a storyline - a story has a start - the big idea, the big opportunity, or an impending threat, what is the cost of inaction?

You then reinforce the message providing clarity on how to adopt the idea, de-risk the idea. Keeping it all very simple.

Executives usually have opportunities and threats top of mind. They are after all responsible for the direction of the organization. Approaching the narrative in line with their thinking will make the conversation relatable.

Customer Stories - Engage in storytelling

Stories are always more interesting than facts. After all, we all grew up listening to one. Executives want to know about others in the same boat. They want to know what the challenges were, how they addressed them, and what the outcomes were.

Invest time in getting to know more about related customer stories. Find the details that are fascinating, insightful, challenging, and sometimes plain funny.

Take the time to talk about it in detail. Inspire your audience with the art of possible. Show them the opportunity. Provide them the confidence that this has been achieved before and they can do it too.

Use the storytelling to convey the impact of your solution, technology, etc., and take your time to tell it.

Back your stats!

Stats without a context appears as marketing jargon. An overused approach designed to make an impact on the audience. Unfortunately - falling flat when presenting without context behind the research. Especially if the audience is unclear why they should care.

55% of CIOs report that the responsibility of the next level of business growth lies on their shoulders.

Not quite as impactful to a Pharma CIO - instead let’s try saying this differently.

In the year 2020, the pharma industry was reeling under a massive supply/demand imbalance. We heard from many of your colleagues, CIOs from the top x pharma companies. They told us that they feel the pressure. The pressure to bring technology lead innovations - the ones that will drive growth.

When covering stats - consider three things
  • Relatability - why should your audience care

  • Context - When, why, and who participated in the research

  • Source - to provide credibility

Relatable Content?

Technologists are passionate about technology. The audience though is likely to be passionate about their industry. Instead, want to know how technology will help them in their industry. This is true especially of executives who have been in their industry for decades. Using industry-specific examples, terminology, and opportunities makes the conversation relatable.

There is another point of view to this. There are instances where your audience works across several industry verticals. This could be a case with consultants, partners. Your idea could be around buy-in for developing partnerships. In such a case it’s safe to assume that the art of possibility can be something that will develop in collaboration. Your responsibility is then to cover the capabilities instead.

Keep the text, images, and colors consistent with your messaging

It’s common practice to put together a presentation from material from various sources. These could be from product marketing, internal enablement, and even external sources. We tend to do that to save time. The consequence though is - inconsistent tonality, messaging, and messaging.

This can compound with the way it gets presented as the speaker adds their point of view.

Images and messaging - language and tonality need consistency. When the elements are in harmony - the impact is a lot bigger

An overview is just that!

All good presenters cover an overview. This helps the audience understand the agenda better - and that is great! BUT this is where it should stop. An overview After all is a quick way to set expectations. It is also an opportunity for an early call-out for any minor tweaks to the agenda.

Unfortunately - so many presenters spend way too much time on this. They pretty much give away all the key messages at this point itself.

An ideal approach would be covering the agenda, call out the outcome that you want to drive. Make the rest of the presentation about how you would achieve the outcome instead. This will keep the audience hooked - rather than get the summary upfront and then zone out.

Don’t be a slave to your deck

Often you would have a narrative - a storyline and the grand unveiling. This is great, but sometimes your audience can be impatient. They can’t wait for you to finish before they start asking questions. Worse off the line of questioning can take you off course. As hard as it sounds, these are vital clues to what the audience has top of mind.

When this happens, take a moment to gather your thoughts. Listen. Re-organize where possible, the narrative to align to what is being asked. If that is not a possibility, go off-script. Engage in a conversation instead. The presentation was after all a mere medium to keep them hooked while you engage in a dialogue.

There is a lot of merit in engaging with clarity and confidence. It leaves a long-lasting impression of trust. It starts with being an expert in your area and not feeling like you need to be a slave to your deck.

Keep the pace

We live in a world of instant gratification. In a world where everyone has an access to the information firehose. Your audience expects information delivered at a consistent bite-sized pace. The keyword here is ‘consistent’.

Effective presentations make use of transitions to assemble ideas. It makes the audience part of the building up of the narrative.

Speaking over a text-heavy slide is most likely to result in losing your audience. Worse - don’t apologize for the slide for being text-heavy and then summarise instead. At that point, they are more likely to be reading your slide than listening to you.

Don’t fill time

Assume your audience can read the slides - in their own time. Don’t fill time by doing that. Instead focus on context, insights, stories, perspectives beyond the obvious

Imagine a slide saying

This helps reduce cost

and the speaker also confirming that. Now imagine the same scenario - but this time the speaker says

Imagine - with this impact to the bottom line, what your opportunities could be. Imagine how you could now pick up project x that you have been delaying due to budget constraints. Think about the top-line impact you could make due to this one decision.

We covered quite a bit in this chapter. A lot to keep top of mind. With practice, consistency, and empathy for your audience - it is possible to make an impact. Speak for your audience, not to your audience. Help provide clarity, de-risk, and re-assure. Show profit, value and win a business opportunity for yourself along the way

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla, Felipe Furtado on Unsplash