Let’s face it, business is a team sport, as such most of us have to either create or give presentations during our working week, for most of us we’ll have to do both. Unless we’ve either got bucket loads of experience or a level of training behind us many of us find building persuasive presentations hugely challenging.
What’s that you don’t think you need persuasive presentations? Your team and your managers will realize it’s just obvious to do what you want? Well, it’s a misnomer to think that just because we’re not in sales doesn’t mean that we don’t need to develop persuasive arguments. Wake up and smell the coffee, just because you believe in something doesn’t mean that everyone else does. Most people (especially when there is money/performance/resources on the line want to be sure what they are about to do is right, and just because you have a nice smile and sound charming, well that don’t cut it.)
You’ll find that most roles require you to demonstrate a level persuasiveness, for example, whilst my career has been more focussed on program delivery than securing buy-in at project launch, I’ve still had my fair share of activity to get support for, most businesses are all about change and when that change happens you need to secure the support for your proposed route. For most of us, this will find us putting down our proposals to our audience in the form of a presentation.
So what do you need to do?
Firstly, consider the goal of your presentation; perhaps you are looking to secure more project funding, maybe to coerce your team to get that extra mile to achieve a particular goal or to convince your boss to back a particular project. All of these goals require you to build both interest, understanding of cause and effect (what happens when you do and what happens when you don’t) and obviously securing backing.
Being persuasive is a key skill, but unless you’ve had particular training most of us rely on our own personalities and mental fortitude to win through. Being persuasive however skill to be learned, it has a process which if done correctly usually delivers the goods. Don’t follow the process and rely on luck and you’re probably going to fail.
Some of us are naturally engaging, dynamic presenters that can win over an audience some of are not. For those of us not blessed with the persuasive personality we have to, some extent, let our Powerpoint do the talking.
Key persuasive powerpoint tips
There are various, obvious, traps that we all fall into with poorly prepared presentations including things like
· Lack of pertinent information/data
· Lacking a clear goal or focus
· Poor use of Formatting
· Death by the number of slides
· Trying to be too clever with pictures .but then losing the audience
· Merely repeating what’s on the slides (hey your audience can read too!!).
So what does a poor presentation look like?
There are some great examples of poorly constructed presentations, for example, take a look here….or here….and now ask yourself, have you ever fallen into the trap of including things like that in your presentations?
Step 1 – 2 simple steps to a great presentation
As we said earlier presenting is a learned skill. I’d advise that you study the art (there’s plenty of great resources online) and practice by building presentations so you can learn what works and what doesn’t.
For a presentation to excel there are two main steps
1/ Understand your goal and have a plan on how you’ll achieve it.
I cannot stress this enough, knowing what you’re trying to achieve may sound simple enough but ask yourself the question
“What do I want from my audience and how do I want them to give it to me” so, for example, do you want your boss to buy into a new project that will require his backing to get funding? Do you need to get your supplier to agree to a new (more aggressive) delivery schedule, or perhaps you need to convince colleagues that your project is more vital to the business that someone elses to secure funding or resources? All of these have some things in common they have
a) A goal
b) A route to achieve that goal
c) A cause an effect – what would happen if the goal was not achieved, what are the key benefits if it does
d) What is the personal impact on the audience if the goal is not met. (for team members this could be mean more work, for bosses this might mean having to explain themselves to their leadership!)
If you have an objective but are not sure of what you need from your audience then you’re simply not ready to present and have not developed your argument.
2/ Using the appropriate tools/collateral to achieve it
Once you’ve thought about the above then you need to collate your argument and use the appropriate tools to put it across. This might be a tool like powerpoint, or it could be some other means, the key is to use something that’s both useful and appropriate. Remember a presentation can be both a room full of people looking at your beautiful slides or a Gemba walk to the shop floor to look at a particular problem to discuss the root cause and solution.
Step 2 – The art of being persuasive
As ever, there’s a glut of resources online offering tips and tricks on being persuasive. Instead of offering a glut of these I’d thought I’d discuss what’s worked for me
1/ Don’t offer your audience too many choices
Hands down, people like simplicity. You might be tempted to offer your audience plenty of routes and/or benefits but if you flood people with a multitude of options and data then you’re likely to raise more questions than answers. Try to keep things as simple as possible so the route to your goal is simple to understand and the benefits are logical and coherent
2/ Focus on what could be lost by not following your idea/goal
I’ve found time and time again that if you tell people what they won’t get if they don’t buy into your project then they are much more likely to buy in. Peoples natural reasoning is to avoid loss. Build on this, but don’t be tempted to make potential losses seem worse than they actually might be or you’ll raise questions of credibility.
3/ Focus on the group, not yourself
We can all be led towards focusing on our own self-importance or knowledge (after all we really believe in what we’re saying) when we come to present, but if you’re focusing on a goal then you need to avoid making this seem about what you want but what would benefit the team or group. Again, appearing to self-important may raise questions about credibility.
4/ Choose your timing
These days’ everyone’s busy, make sure that you choose the right moment to present, it’s important so that you get the attention that you deserve. This might sound a little obvious but for many senior stakeholders (those decision makers you actually need) it’s all about getting in front of them at just the right moment with the right argument.
5/ Be Logical and use plenty of evidence/data
Don’t try and stretch the truth, and don’t just present something on your say so. Make your presentation logical, the conclusion you reach should, by the end of your discussion, seems the obvious choice because it both makes sense and the data that you’ve chosen to accompany your presentation supports it.
Challenges you’ll face.
As ever there will be a few obstacles to overcome, again from personal experience I’ve found that these include:
1/ Your audience will come up with something you haven’t thought of and you need to consider how to react with these.
2/ You’re audience may include opponents who think differently to you
3/ People might find holes in your data
4/The business may have other priorities that drive a delay in decision making
As ever, prepare your approach to these challenges in advance. Don’t wait for them to happen, have your answers and approach prepared in advance.
Practice makes perfect
I firmly believe that the art of persuasive presentations is practice makes perfect. Use every opportunity open to you to watch others present. Look at what works and what doesn’t look at how you can build these ideas into your own. Think of the arguments against your ideas in advance, is your argument clear and concise could it be simplified further? Have draft run-throughs with colleagues and get them to critique. Use their inputs to finesse your arguments.
Above all good luck!
So I hope you found that article useful and that it goes some way into helping you become a more persuasive presenter.
This post is part of our Management & Leadership guide which is full of tools, tips and templates.