April 2013

What’s Your Point

Diptic-2 How many times have you sat through a presentation trying to figure out what the speaker wants you to do with the information and bored to death picked up your Blackberry? One of the participants at a recent workshop was very excited when it came time for members to turn their business presentations into story. She had a presentation to give in three days, and was going to take this opportunity to refine it. Her deck was thirty slides, all chock full of facts and figures. To begin I asked what the point of her presentation was. She told me it was to get the audience to hire her. As we proceeded through the deck, I quickly saw that nothing pointed to her unique expertise. After about ten slides full of facts and graphs I pointed this out, and asked if she was sure of her point? She took a beat, shook her head, and said, “No, actually I think the point is to show the audience the multiple choices they have in this situation.” And then do what with that information?” I asked. “Hire me to help them make their choice?” She replied, a question in her voice. I shrugged. If she didn’t know the point how was I to? Diptic-1I looked at a few more slides with this new context in mind. The slides still weren’t making her point. Again I inquired, “Are you sure of your point?” She paused to think and then said, “Well actually my audience is internal so they have de facto hired me already. I want them to see that there are a million action choices in this situation. So, I guess my real point is that my department is good at what they do, but we can’t do a million things at once. They are going to have to trust us to prioritize the choices based on our expertise.” So, I inquired, “What you really want them to do is trust that you know what you are doing? “ Yeah, that’s it. I don’t know why that was so hard for me to figure out.” She replied. Neither did I, but what I did know was she’d put together a thirty slide deck, dumping every fact she could think of on her audience without being sure of her point or the action she wanted them to take. About five minutes after she started her presentation half the room was going to be on their Blackberries and ten minutes in, she’d be lucky to have one person paying attention. Her real goal was to generate trust and respect from her audience and her entire presentation was unconsciously designed to create the opposite effect. This woman is bright, successful, and highly competent, and she is not alone. More than half my clients prepare their communications this way. Why, because they don’t start from knowing what they want their audience to do, and build a presentation whose goal is to drive that action. When you build from fact to action, you get tons of fact and remarkably little impact. DipticWhen you build from action to fact, you get motion. With motion comes your audience paying attention. An audience that is engaged is putty in any good speaker’s hands. If you want to learn how to hone in on your point and move your audience to act, take a HollywoodWay Workshop and you’ll become a pro.
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