It just sounds boring, doesn’t it? But it’s really incredibly exciting… like a game in which you strategize how to engage others in achieving a goal & then roll out that strategy in a high risk way – on stage with everyone staring at you. Your audience can be 1 or 50… it doesn’t matter. Here’s my take.
• The quality of our communication would go up exponentially if we CONSISTENTLY invested time prior to opening our mouths to ask ourselves what the intended outcome is of the meeting. To me, this is best accomplished by first centering so your mind is still & you can really connect with your intention in light of your audience & what you want to achieve. This isn’t just for group presentations. One-on-one is just as important.
• Knowing your content thoroughly & anticipating questions is imperative. It takes discipline and homework to not “wing it” especially if you present frequently. However, this is akin to building a countertop without a template. You have a low chance of getting the details right & using the right process to achieve perfection. As leaders, our “countertop” (or end result) is influence & understanding from our audience so people CONNECT with the path.
• Preparation conveys respect to your audience. It shows them you cared enough to invest time in them. It’s even more powerful if you build your content from their perspective versus yours. It’s the difference between selling & educating / collaborating.
• Connection occurs because of authenticity & a spirit of service. Both of which can be accomplished with or without a loose script. This is about infusing YOU into the talk while simultaneously honoring their needs & perspective. A thoughtful, flexible script doesn’t disengage you. YOU disengage you.
• Presenters mistakenly think that telling personal stories endears and engages others. This is sometimes true but selectively so and typically only when our “story” serves the audience. If your story makes them feel understood, it’s appropriate. Otherwise, it is rambling or worse, construed as self-centered.
• Developing understanding & buy-in follows a linear progression. Clearly define the topic. Help the audience discover what’s in it for them. Anticipate & disarm their points of resistance. (Not enough time, money, etc). Layout the collective whole’s path forward. Steps 2 & 3 are best achieved with audience participation. Know your content for each step.
• When to abandon your plan of attack… Sometimes, our communication goes sideways. Instead of flailing around verbally when this happens, make a conscious decision to 1) abandon gracefully (“I can see we have a lot of differing opinions that are valuable, and I want more time to consider…”) or 2) change your style from collaborative to authoritative. It is what it is. You can do even this with empathy, acknowledging the resistance but providing clarity around the path.
PS – Never pin executive leadership for unpopular decisions. You may feel it saves YOUR face but it actually sends a message of weakness & lack of influence about you.