Thursday, September 22, 2011

Plan for Success – Before you Stand Up to Present!

Last week I introduced you to five employees who will soon make important presentations. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to offer tips on how each of them can succeed. First, it’s critical to consider upfront whether they have a chance of achieving their purposes.  And if so, what will success look like?

Like them, you need to evaluate well in advance of putting together the presentation your chances of achieving your purpose. Why? So that you can formulate a strategy, carefully structure your message, get compelling data, invite the “right” people, and set the stage for your success.

Five scenarios illustrate what success can look like 

Jose needs to inform his team of the data and feedback from the latest customer surveys. To succeed he needs to provide the appropriate data his team wants, and anticipate their questions. He also needs to distill information rather than do a “data dump.” Success is measured by whether he chooses and shares all relevant information, answers all questions and leaves his audience satisfied, and sets the stage for discussion/decisions based on his report.

Sue needs to instruct her people on new factory safety features. The clarity and specificity of her instruction and directions are critical, as is allowing enough time for questions. Measuring success might mean asking for employee demonstrations or a proficiency test, and zero safety issues in the future is another longer-term measurable.
Abdul wants to recommend a new inventory system and get approval so he can start implementation.  He should have laid the groundwork in earlier meetings for why a new system is important. Now he’ll need solid, persuasive data on costs, disruptions, scheduling, resources, etc. His audience is senior management; he must answer their rigorous questions. Success depends on the decision-makers being present. His measure of success: does he get the green light to move ahead with implementation.

Mei wants to spark interest in and gain support from her manager and team to explore new research ideas.  Mei needs to paint a picture of what her research idea can offer and where it may lead. Industry data, trends, as-yet-to-be solved problems and gaps in her company’s product/patent portfolio, as well as her own preliminary work, are imperative to convince managers to support her ideas. She so needs senior-level advocates on board. Like Abdul, she must insure that decision-makers are present. Her measurable is a bit tricky: to move beyond discussion of her ideas and get approval to start the research.

Tom’s purpose is to evaluate the successes and failures of the Grand Opening of the company’s newest store.  Such a meeting is sometimes called a de-brief or a post-mortem (a medical term to describe the cause of death). Tom must carefully sift, organize and deliver a wealth of data -- sales reports, number of shoppers, inventory management, etc., as well as provide anecdotal feedback from customers and employees. He will succeed if his audience makes sense of the data and experiences, and draws useful lessons for the next Opening.

So, what is the purpose of your upcoming presentation? 

I suggest you answer that question by completing these statements:
·        My purpose is to _______________________________________ 
·        In order to achieve my purpose I must ______________________
·        I’ll know if I am successful if ­­­­­­_____________________________

If you can’t complete these sentences, you’re not ready for “show time.” Re-think your purpose, or break up your presentation into action steps, each of which moves you to your purpose. Re-organize and hone your presentation to include precisely what your audience needs in order to give you want you want. Make sure you’ve invited advocates and decision-makers, and schedule your presentation only when you’re sure those folks will be present.

Next time I’ll write about how you evaluate your audience. After all, a presentation is really communication with listeners. You want to know all you can about them.


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