Jul 20, 2022

5 Counterintuitive Steps to Getting a “Yes”

5 Counterintuitive Steps to Getting a “Yes”

5 Counterintuitive Steps to Getting a “Yes”

Nathan King

Corporate presentations are so reliably bad, we've all been trained to brace ourselves to endure them.

It shocks us, then, when someone shows up and presents something that actually holds our attention. The thing is, it doesn't even have to be that good.

When considering how to create an effective presentation, the temptation is to find a combination of screaming insights and quick hacks (e.g., "10 tips for a killer presentation"). The logic goes that we will spend our time on the insight and the hacks will help us package it up.

We're not looking to create the next TED talk. The question is, how do you create a presentation that isn't boring?

The key to making a presentation is in the steps you take before you even begin.

Let's look at an example of how an internal presentation usually plays out.

Example Scenario of Creating a Presentation

Your job is to figure out how to get sales to increase. In your company, there is a general sense that sales performance could be better. And it's obvious that the CEO, the CFO, and the head of sales all disagree about what would make it better.

What's needed is some DATA to help make a DECISION. And you know you can do that.

The conventional approach is to jump in, wade through the data, produce a series of charts and or tables, and add a narrative in bullet point form, then present all of this to the stakeholders with a recommendation.

While you present, people sit passively. Someone is on their phone. Another is on their computer. Attention clearly isn't great.

The result is...nothing. In days and weeks that follow, there is more discussion, dissembly and, from someone like you who wants to get things to happen, despair.

A better way to keep people engaged is to do pre-work by engaging with them before you begin working on a presentation.

Your audience is the hero. You are just here to help them get the desired outcome. In the example above, you were the hero, with you data, your bullet points, your desired outcome. And frankly, that's not that interesting for the others in the room.

Here is what it looks like to create a presentation that gets people to move.

5 Steps to Creating a Presentation that Gets a "Yes" from Internal Stakeholders

1. Who really cares about this issue?

Start with a piece of paper (a digital one is fine too). Write down the name of each person who really cares about this. Note their opinions, their concerns, and their hopes. You've worked with them so you know something of their tendencies and preferences. Write those down as well.

2. Talk to key stakeholders to ask directly about the situation

Schedule a few 15-30 minute meetings to discuss the situation. These informal, 1:1 meetings are simply to gather input. In fact, they don't have to be a scheduled meeting. Stop by the office, or when you see someone at the coffee machine, strike up a conversation. Or if you are remote, send a text/instant message that says "let me know when you have a few minutes to talk."

These short and inquisitive conversations help you gain perspective and understand what they believe is going on. Essentially, they give you questions to answer in a presentation that addresses specific concerns.

3. Use your audience's preference for processing information to make an impact.

Everyone processes information in a unique way, and if you communicate in that style, it will make it easier to receive your message.

Personally, I prefer to talk through proposals, to think aloud to help me make a decision. So if you were presenting to me, being succinct and then asking me questions like, "what do you think about that?" would start the process of having me grapple with the ideas and move towards a decision.

Think through your audience carefully. Do they prefer to be presented to? Have a whiteboard available for explaining their ideas? Talking through issues conversationally? Reviewing the information in advance? And if so, by email, PowerPoint, or text?

In general, the more senior your audience, the more concise and structured you should be. CEOs have a different level of attention than a group of managers. They also tend to interrupt more with direct questions.

Taking all of this into account will help you determine the medium and the style that you adopt when presenting to your audience.

Nancy Duarte developed this helpful visual to use when thinking through this.

4. Develop a proposal "skeleton"

Based on the 2-5 conversations you had, your understanding of audience, etc, now you are ready to put your ideas into an underdeveloped presentation. I say "underdeveloped" because it is going to change in the next step. The important thing is now to have the sequence of your ideas, the main arguments, and the way to go about it.

5. Enlist someone to be a sounding board

Take your proposal skeleton to someone who understands your audience but is not directly involved in making the decision. Ideally, this person is more senior in the organization than you. You will present your proposal skeleton and ask them to think about the issue from the perspective of who you are presenting to. With near 100% certainty, they will have feedback for you that takes your ideas to a new level.

At this point, you are now equipped to add flesh to skeleton and fill in the details: key points of rationale, data, proposed implementation. The difference is, you have taken into account the preferences, the style, the goals of your audience, and not just from you own assumptions, but from you and someone else you have presented to.




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