Talk to Your Audience

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I’ve sat through, as I’m sure not a few of you have, many maddening hours of reading PowerPoint presentations while ignoring the presenter. My own experience included walking a disinterested audience through a mandatory corporate template. This meant that my 0nce a month fifteen-minute opportunity in front of the company decision makers was limited to running through the required metrics and graphics before I got to the interesting stuff.

What’s Your Point?

This seems obvious, but too often presenters don’t actually talk to their audience. We turn our back on them and talk to the slides. We read them through our entire though process, justifications, side-trips, and dead-ends before getting t to our point. Some presenters don’t event get there. Instead they bury us in data but don’t give us any information.

If you’re in front of influencers and decision makers, make it easy for them. Give them the headline, tell them what you’re going to tell them. Don’t bury your recommendation / conclusion / call-to-action and expect them to figure it out. That’s why you’re presenting – to do the thinking for them, so they don’t have to. If they have to do all the thinking, then what do they need you for?

Talk to the Audience, Not the Slides

People can read. They don’t need you to do it for them. Reading from the slides gives the slides the focus. Maybe this is more comfortable than having a room full of strangers staring at you, but it betrays a lack of confidence, or sends the subtle message that you don’t care about them, or both.

PowerPoint has an outlining function, which is a great way to create a presentation. The trap many fall into is then putting it all the words up on the screen and then reading from it.

Move text to the ‘notes’ section and refer to your printed copy if you have to. Leave the main points of your persuasive arguments and conclusion. You should know the details well enough to only need to refer to it to get back on track.

Turn and face your audience. Speak directly to them. Pick a few people in the room and make eye contact with them in turn. If it’s a large audience, this is different people from different parts of the room. If there are decision makers or people you’ve chosen to build a relationship with are present, choose them.

Use Pictures and Stories

Human being are amazingly emotional and visual creatures. If your intent is to persuade and convince, use pictures. Then tell stories about those pictures. This isn’t always proper, but use it when you can. People don’t make decisions or get moved to action because of facts and figures. They do those things when you move them by your vision. The facts and figures will help support and rationalize that decision later.

For example, when working with a new client, they’ll tell me that they want to hit a certain revenue or profit target. Often stated in terms of percentage growth or EBITDA. Which is great. You need to have concrete, testable goals. The more interesting story, and the one that should come first, is “What is that money going to allow us to do?” Growth and profit is never an end to itself, it is a means to something else. Whether it’s security, or winning, or being the best at a particular thing – whatever that means for you – is the more inspirational vision.

Know what your point is and make it, talk to your audience no matter how big or small, and inspire to convince.

How Do You Say It?

http://homebasedbusinesstaxservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/o-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-facebook.jpg“Communication is what the listener does.” — Marc Hortsman

A boss once that told me “I dread reading your e-mails.” I asked him why. He told me that it took him too long to read them.

I thought I was providing the detail he needed to understand what I was thinking. Or why I was making a particular recommendation or decision. I was trying to communicate clearly. Instead I was confusing him by providing too much detail and burying the key points at the bottom or even the middle of the e-mail.

I’d forgotten it wasn’t about me. It was about getting my message to him in a way that was easiest for him. In this case putting the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) solved the problem.

For complicated issues I could still write out everything I needed to think through the problem. That’s the way I prefer to communicate and think. Then, when I was done, I’d take the last paragraph or sentance, and put it at the front of the email.

Then he could say “Got it, I don’t have to read the rest of this.” Or he could skim my supporting materials to figure out what I was trying to get across.

Usually, however, we would talk in his office. This was his preferred method of communication. He asked questions to get the clarity he needed, and go to the level of detail appropriate to him. Usually this was faster than me writing and him reading a long, drawn-out e-mail, and he was happier and better informed.

Don’t Piss Off the Quartermaster

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“There are two people in the unit you never want to piss off: the quartermaster and the pay-clerk. No beans, no bullets, and no cash for the bar.” — Sergeant B. L.

This can also be told as: “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, isn’t nice.” I’ve heard told as dating advice in that context, but it also has a leadership application.

The so-called “little people” have power. Yes, I’ve heard them called that, and it made me wonder what kind of person they are. The bottom line is that you depend on everybody on your team to get the the job done. If people who work with or for you perceive a sense of entitlement, privilege, or power over will do two things for you:

  • You’ll have people working with or for you that don’t have anywhere else to go, so they have to put up with your shit. If you treat people poorly, you’ll have poor staff.
  • You’ll get your coffee spit in, if you can get a coffee. Or your project will get sabotaged, you’ll only get what you can force out of people. If that’s your jam then go ahead. Personally I don’ t have the energy to lead that way.

If your boss / client / supplier / peer has an executive administrator, then I strongly invite you to nurture an authentic relationship with them. He or she is your boss’s gatekeeper. He can make your job much harder if you give him reason to. Like, for example, mocking him for being a guy secretary.

Things you might want to consider when interacting with any administrator:

  • Respect their desk and supplies. Don’t borrow their stapler without asking. It’s their desk, treat it with the respect you would for anybody else’s. Their office supplies are not public property. Do you go through your boss’s desk looking for a three-hole punch? No? Don’t do it to her admin either.
  • Respect their personal space. Don’t lean on their desk and tower over them. At best it’s an obnoxious power play. That’s how they’ll perceive it, even if that wasn’t your intention. Remember that communication is what the listener does: if somebody thinks you’re being creepy, it’s because you’re doing something creepy.
  • Look them in the eye, not at their cleavage. This one is so obvious, but there are still men who do this. Yes, they can tell. Even when you think they’re not looking. If you’re lucky they’re just laughing at you behind your back because you think they can’t tell.
  • Be nice to them all the time, not only when you need something from them. You know when people are sucking up to you just because they need something from you. That means other people can tell when you’re doing it to them.
  • The best and fastest way to build a relationship with somebody is to learn their name. If it’s your first day, learn the boss’s secretary’s name, and as many of the other administrators as you can.
  • Be nice to all of them. They talk to each other. I’m not condoning gossip here but they do compare notes. Who’s good to work for, who isn’t, who’s an asshole. If you’re polite to one and not the other, you’re not polite.

Your boss’s administrator has tremendous influence. A good receptionist/administrator is worth their weight in gold. Treat them with respect and that’s what you’ll get in return.

If You Don’t One-on-Ones Already, You Should Start Now

Half-hour one-on-ones with your direct reports once a week will save you time, interruptions, email, and rework. Start doing them if you don’t already. Don’tskip them if you do.

Why You Should Never Cancel Your One-on-One Meetings

When Networking, Know What You’re Offering

Try giving first. Be clear in you’re own mind what you can offer.

A Networking Paradigm Shift: Focus on Giving, Not Taking

Your Team Failed. Now What?

A ship is safe in the harbour, but that’s not what a ship is for. Eventually your team is going to have a set-back. Now what?

How to Pick Up Your Team After a Fall

Bums in Seats – the Bad Proxy for Productivity

.”The person that’s leaving early on Friday probably isn’t disloyal.”

That’s quote from an real business owner. One who had never considered that the first person to arrive and the last to leave wasn’t there because he has working hard, but because it was what they needed to do to stay caught up.

I’m not saying the I want people working for me to be slacking off. Sometimes, especially as an entrepreneur, you have to work weekends or evenings or even pull a few all-nighters.

I want their passion. I want them to believe what I believe, and I want to know that they’re working with me because the work is as meaningful to them as it is to me. Not the least because no salary nor benefits will ever be able to compete with that.

But…

I’d rather have somebody working for me that turns in a high-quality, high-volume of work early and goes home for the weekend well rested and ready to tackle the week next Monday. I’d rather that than somebody who has to come in early, leave late, and come in on the weekends just to keep up. Because how useful are they when it really is an “all hands on deck” situation?

If your measure of a worker’s productivity is that they’re the first to arrive and that last to leave, then I would suggest that you really don’t know what they’re doing, or how well they’re doing it. And that’s a problem.

Brain Based Way to Be More Productive

This is something I work on every day. If somebody asks me to do something, sometimes their lucky if I remember what it was half an hour later. I get distracted easily. But the research consistently shows that we’re at our best when we’re focused on one thing at a time.

Sometimes you have to multitask. Sometimes your job is interruptions or multiple balls-in-the-air juggling. But as much as you can. Do one thing at a time.

Multitasking is evil.

A Brain Based Method for Being More Productive by Inc.

Learn From the Best

Surrounding yourself with the best people you can find, people who will challenge you and make you better, has always been a fast way to get to where you want. It will make you happier, more productive, and more successful in the long run. Doing the same with other entrepreneurs also works.

Learn From the Best from Inc.

They Would Rather Watch Paint Dry

According to this Inc. article, your employees would rather watch paint dry, move to the Antarctic, or get a mullet haircut than got to another of your meetings. It’s an interesting infographic, and the alternatives to even having meetings are worth considering.

But…

Before you consider throwing out the baby with the bathwater, consider first if there’s anything you could be doing better, including running a more effective meeting itself. Or maybe work on the underlying trust, conflict, and commitment issues, a lá Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

17 % of Your Employees Would Rather Watch Paint Dry