It’s not business, it’s just personal

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Having the best powerpoint presentation (thanks to Presentation Zen and Beyond Bullets, this is possible) is not sufficient to persuade. We have to craft personal messages. We have to be interactive, and adapt our presentations as we present – maybe even discard them entirely, and craft the key points of our messages into a conversation lead by the people to whom we are presenting.

Susan Cramm writes about it in an article for CIO magazine.  We review Guy Kawasaki’s advice in Top ten tips for giving a better presentation.
Susan tells a great story – she has a relationship of trust and established credibility with a client. Together, they delivered a presentation to her client’s boss – and Susan gave the presentation. She didn’t have any prep time, an established relationship, or previous contact with her client’s boss. She didn’t gather intel about the boss’ hot buttons, goals, or objectives. She was walking into a mine field – give it a read and find out if she stepped on one.

Sometimes we can avoid the landmines, and sometimes we have no choice but to cross the mine field. Maybe we’ll get an opportunity to demostrate credibility to our one-person audience before we hear that deaded clicking sound when we take our first wrong step. Susan tells the story of hearing that sound on the first slide of her deck.

The way to get out of these high-risk situations is to prevent them. At a minimum, find out what’s important to the people we’re trying to convince. If Susan had asked her client what’s important to her boss, she could have presented her compelling arguments in that context.

It can be hard, but we need to step back and ask – why is this important to them, not why it is important to us – and then present accordingly. With a map of the mine field, we may be able to get to the other side.

No matter how prepared we are, when our audience starts telling us where the mines are – don’t ignore their advice. Don’t keep following a carefully crafted script. Let the conversation go where it wants to go, or it will end up going nowhere.

Persuasion is personal, no matter how much it looks like business.

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