Are Your Fears Driving Your Presentations?
ADAP stands for Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations. Last year, we introduced the concept to our community of presenters who want to design and deliver winning presentations. The key is to analyze every part of your presentation through these dual lenses. Is the focus on meeting the audience’s need to know and ability to process information at this time, or is your delivery focused on overcoming your fears that you may do something wrong when presenting. ADAP says that when fears guide design and delivery decisions, it destroys your ability to feel competent about the subject matter and confident that you can communicate it effectively.
Imagine that ABC Company conducts market research for its clients concerning their products and services. The purpose of the research is to answer a question about sales, product design, target market, etc. The goal of the presentation is to highlight the most significant findings and share recommendation and conclusions that ABC’s clients can now use for future decisions.
The challenge is how much information to provide in the executive presentation. An excellent presentation provides a thorough analysis from the client’s standpoint and substantiated recommendations for action. But many presenters forget that their audience’s ability to process information is the standard for whether to include information and how to do so. Instead they focus on their fears, such as the:
- Fear of leaving out some piece of information that someone in the audience might want
- Fear that the client won’t appreciate how much work was done, without showing everything
- Fear that the client will not trust their conclusion unless everything is presented.
The result is a presentation that is overly crowded with details: too many words, numbers and pictures; to fit them all on each slide, they are too small for people to read. The clutter fills the page with lots of unnecessary detail which competes with the valuable nuggets for the viewer’s attention.
This sets up a “losing” presentation. The audience cannot read everything that’s on the page, identify detail from nuggets. So, he/she relies on the presenter’s story. But the presenter cannot deliver an authentic presentation about what really matters, because he/she fears leaving anything out!
As a result, many presenters sacrifice authenticity – focusing on what they feel personally is most important and how to present it to this specific audience – and instead try to share the excessively complicated message on each slide. That’s why speakers who almost never say “Um” when they talk to you begin doing so regularly when they present using such slides. With no simple flow to follow and feel comfortable about, the presenter’s mind “needs” to look at each slide to remember what to say. The “Um” before delivering each slide’s message is the brain having to figure out “um, what’s next?”.
Is there a solution? Yes. Follow the ADAP principles:
Also, use titles to communicate the key point of each slide. This way the audience knows where the story is heading and can either read the slide or just listen to you to get the additional details.
- Clients hired you because they believed you are competent to do the research and provide insightful recommendations. Believe it too, and focus on how best to help them make the decisions that want to make based on the research.
- The purpose of the client presentation is to enable them to make executive decisions. They don’t need to see all the details. So focus the executive presentation on the key points and conclusions in a 20 minute briefing. Then have a second Reference Report available with all the details nicely laid out, which the client can then go through to understand how you reached your conclusions. Indeed, the client may want to review the details at a later time. Your goal in the presentation is to give them the confidence that they now know what they needed to know in order to move forward.
- One approach is to provide the “overly busy” slides in the Reference Report, which the client can read at his/her leisure, and instead provide a clean, simpler slide at the client presentation.
In sum, focus on your client’s need to understand and make decisions, and competently master the material. If you do, you won’t worry about whether you left something out – because you can address it in the Q&A. As we say in our training, LESS IS MORE. Present what the client must know, and then the client will feel more competent and confident about taking the next steps.