Imagine your team has designed a business architecture for your company, and now you have ten minutes to present your findings and recommendations to the CEO.
What do you say? How can you get them believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that your recommendations are the best way forward?
I had the opportunity to hear some of these pitches from the CEO’s chair while three teams presented their solutions to a case study scenario.
The rigour and depth of analysis and design was impressive and the frameworks and models they walked me through were fascinating, however throughout the presentations I realised one major flaw… I had no idea what they were talking about. I could see the effort they had put into the presentations and the passion with which they explained their plans but when I walked out of the room I have to admit that I wasn’t convinced. They had forgotten to include me in their vision and as a result I walked away feeling uninspired.
Granted, the teams were working on a case study rather than a real situation and I’m not really the CEO of a global company, but there were two main issues with those presentations that I have seen in countless presentations before.
1: Forgetting that it’s all about the audience.
The key to resonating with the CEO or with any audience is to first understand where they are coming from.
- What problems are they facing?
- What do they need to hear?
- How can I package my message in a way that benefits them?
People usually build a presentation by figuring out what information they have to tell. Although that seems logical, it results in a presentation that’s about the presenter not the audience. This often produces an audience that is with you in the room physically but they are just not engaged with what you’re saying. Telltale signs you are losing them include; restlessness, opposing opinions, defensive body language and blank faces.
2: Packing in too much information.
This works hand in hand with the first point. Most presentations overwhelm the audience with a barrage of details, facts, and abstract language that doesn’t mean anything. If you can boil your presentation down to its essence—its absolute core—and communicate that in a way that captures your audience’s imagination, your proposal stands a much better chance of sticking.
What the business architecture presentations needed was a well-crafted story to help the CEO envision what the recommendations would mean for the company. Stories can encapsulate the essence of a message—even something as complex and abstract as a business architecture proposal—in a way that engages the audience, is easy to understand and resonates strongly. Don’t forget… stories are the secret to influence.
3 tips for creating a better story
- Find a real example where something like what you are proposing has already been implemented. It’s important that it is a real example. You may have to do some research.
- The story should have a main character, someone the CEO can identify with.
- Make sure the story has a happy ending, a good outcome for the main character.
Everyone has the ability to be an agent for change within their organisation. You don’t need to be the most charming person in the room or an extrovert to get your voice heard. Just like the teams that presented to me, you already have the knowledge and experience to make your idea work. All you need to do is share your vision with others in a way that makes sense.
Storytelling is a unique and powerful skill; if you would like to know more about how you could be a storyteller, click here.
Patricia is a bridge between two worlds: the fast-paced world of innovation, driven by technology and data; and the ancient world of storytelling; driven by our human need to connect with each other and create sense and meaning in our lives.