to the point is deciding which details to leave out. Rather than burdening your audience with a mass of statistics, pick the most relevant figures which will highlight the importance of your message. You can prepare exhaustive details to email afterwards.
Translate technical information
I recently heard an HR presentation which included: stress, eustress and distress. I got quite confused and afterwards rang a colleague to ask, “Is ‘eustress’ a real word?” “Yes. It’s good stress. Remember when Ed was in the London to Bright-
relate to broad forces in history. Tink about your audience members and what metaphors will resonate with them.
Manage your tenses
Take time choosing your words carefully. Tis helps you get to the point concisely and directly. “Te planning team decided this was the best option” is a de-energising past-tense statement. “Tis is the best option for us” is present-tense which isn’t highly motivating. “Tis option will give us the greatest competitive advantage” is a motivating statement. Notice the change of feeling as
Think about your audience members and what metaphors will resonate with them
on cycle race? He knew it’d be stretch but was 99% sure he’d get through.” In financial training, if I say to
portfolio managers, “Te haircut for standard govvy repo is 102” they’ll understand it. For a group of IT recruits training to support those portfolio managers I say, “Te initial margin to take when lending money against government bonds is 2%. Tat is, for every 100k you lend in cash you should take 102k-worth of government bonds as security.” Everyday language is needed
for the recruits. Te portfolio managers are fluent in jargon.
Facts made memorable with metaphors
I recently attended a lecture in which an historian discussed how 12th-century raiders like Genghis Khan were able to inflict damage on large kingdoms of Central Asia which were too lumbering to defeat him. In the Q&A, someone asked whether this is the equivalent of today’s agile hackers attacking lumbering ‘digital kingdoms’ at vulnerable switch-points. Te professor said yes, this is indeed a good metaphor for tech-savvy professionals to understand how they
you read the following: Te council made bad decisions. Te council is investigating. Te council will learn lessons and implement change.
Manage the energy of the presentation
Choosing the right tense creates emotion in a particular statement. To maintain positive energy overall, use the active voice. You want to persuade people to
take action and you say, “Tis should be done by the second quarter” but who is responsible is undefined. Even people who are willing won’t do anything if you’re not precise. Tey will be inclined to think, “She’s right about that” but not inclined to undertake a non-spe- cific action. By being clear about what you want them to do and having a process in place (for instance, asking line managers to agree to provide representatives for a project-group at an agreed date) you’ll get commitment. To maintain the energy of the
presentation, remember the wisdom of BBC journalist Alistair Cooke as you structure your presentation. He said, “No matter what you’re talking about – gardening, economics, murder – you’re telling a story. Every sentence should lead to the next sentence. If you say a dull sentence, people have a right to switch off.”1
When is more detail necessary?
Te moment for expanding the information you provide is during the Q&A. If you’ve inspired interest, you’ll get specific questions. Knowing your
audience means anticipating some lines of questioning. However, surprises hap- pen so listen carefully to the language of the questioner. You can tailor your response to achieve maximum impact. I like to use a clear structure in
a Q&A. For example, PREP (point, reason, example, point). You want to give detail. You don’t want to start another presentation. Q&A benefits from short responses and a dynamic exchange with audience members. If you’re discussing recruitment
strategy post-Brexit, you might be asked about the breakdown of current applicants by EU country. Don’t list all 27. Pick, for example, Poland, Romania and Spain if these are the most important to managers in the room. Someone may want further detail, asking “Could you tell us more about the change in applications from medical staff from Spain?” Despite the pressure of Q&A you can relish that the conversation is developing.
Tere’s a lot of competition for stakeholders’ attention. ` `
Have a message which clearly addresses their business issues. Ask yourself as you prepare your pres- entation: “Am I solving your prob- lem?” “Am I meeting your needs?”
` ` `` ``
Choose the most relevant, impactful facts.
Use language to lead to understanding and action.
Make it as easy as possible for them to see the point.
Clarity and brevity will make you stand out from the usual long-winded presentations that we often sit through. Getting to the point will ensure your business message has impact.
Paul Carroll is with Toastmasters International, a non-profit education- al organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills. To find out more, visit www.toastmasters.org
and follow @Toastmasters and @ToastmastersUKI
Reference 1 Alistair Cooke at the BBC (audio book), 1993
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