Common Mistakes Technology Presenters Make… and How to Avoid Them
Joe knows his company’s software product. That’s why he was asked to accompany the sales exec on a call with a new prospect. Joe shared with me later that he sensed that the prospect was not “with them” during the executive’s presentation or later when Joe stared the demo portion of the presentation. “At least, they weren’t with us, until the very end… and by that point, the appointment was over.” When I asked Joe how the presentation started, I wasn’t surprised that he sensed a disconnect with the prospect. The exec started by telling the prospect about the software company and the people in the software company, and their previous successes, and on and on. Joe said, “It wasn’t until the end when I started plugging their information from their website into our software that they started getting interested. In fact they got pretty excited, but by that point, we were out of time.” Joe and the exec made a common error. It wasn’t until the very end that anyone started talked about what the prospect really cared about most… themselves.
Every audience, not matter how polite, care most about one thing – themselves. If in the first few seconds of your presentation, you don’t hook into something that your audience cares about, like Joe, you will feel the fact that the audience is not with you.
Know Your Audience
Find out as much information about your audience as you can using old school personal and Internet techniques as well as new social media methods. Find out what they care about. Discover what their biggest challenges are regardless of whether or not it has anything to do with your presentation. Understand why they would care about your presentation. Address why they should listen in your introduction and early in the opening of your presentation. Make an effort to find out how they like to receive information and have alternative approaches ready, similar to the decision modes discussed by James Archer. The more you can find out, the better you can address what they care about.
Meet the Audience Where They’re At
Address the audience at the level where their knowledge and interest lies and you’ll stay connected.
Typically senior executives don’t care about the technology: they want the bottom line. Start there. If they want more details, they’ll ask. (If you’ve done your homework on the decision modes, you’ll know when and what kinds of details they’ll need.)
Customers want their problems taken care of. They want to see themselves with an alternate outcome. Paint the picture for them. Eventually they will care whether or not they can trust you. That’s when you’ll talk about your background and your other clients. But start with what’s in it for them.
If they’re technologist from the customer, don’t try to dazzle or intimidate them with your knowledge. Address them at their level of knowledge in a respectful way that makes it safe to admit in front of their boss that they don’t know the technology. After all, that customer technologist has known their boss longer than you have and they may be a key influencer in the ultimate decision.
An audience of your technical colleagues or industry peers will want the nitty-gritty details of the technology so dive in deep and help them understand. Don’t make them feel bad if they don’t know. That’s why they are in your audience. And you weren’t born knowing it either so help them learn.
Care more about meeting the audiences need than about how you’ll come off and you’ll go a long way in establishing and maintaining your connection with your audience.