The video ended, Ginny clicked the window closed, and swiveled her chair to face Sid and Mort. Sid was staring at the screen, in awe of what he'd just seen — a master at work. Mort was gazing out the window, in thought.
"Now that presentation worked," Ginny said, "and it wasn't much different from ours."
Sid was puzzled. "Let's watch it again," he said. "I can't figure this out."
Mort returned from wherever he'd been. "I remember a presentation training from awhile back," he said. "This guy we just watched was following the same pattern they taught us. You remember, Ginny, you were there, I think."
"Right…a four-step framework, wasn't it?"
Between the two of them, Mort and Ginny reconstructed the four-step framework for presenting to persuade. Here it is:
- Start with their pain
- Begin by connecting the audience with the parts of their pain that you can address. This motivates them. It gives you credibility, because it proves that you've been there, too.
- For example, if you're talking to a group about designing presentations, you could remind them how hard it is to achieve connection and credibility, especially when the audience doesn't really know you. You're showing them that you share their pain, and you're reminding them of the problem, too.
- Feature your features
- Too much emphasis
on features per se
is a common mistake
- Once you've identified their pain, talk about the features of your solution, describing how those features address their pain. For extra punch, show how other solutions that lack those features might not address the pain as effectively. In other words, show how the features of your solution are both necessary and sufficient.
- Feature your features, but take care to connect each one to the pain. Too much emphasis on features per se is such a common mistake that it has a name: feature-mongering.
- Brag about benefits
- Bragging can be hard for some of us, but people do tend to discount whatever presenters say. If you don't emphasize strengths (pre-discount) then after the discount, most of the audience will have an inaccurate picture of the value of the solution.
- The benefits of the solution are direct benefits from the audience's point of view — not yours. Lower maintenance cost for future versions is not a direct benefit, but faster introduction of new capability and faster repair of design problems are direct benefits.
- To find the underlying benefit of any feature, repeatedly ask yourself "So What?" When the answer to this series of questions stops changing, that answer is the end-user benefit. See "Deliver the Headline First," Point Lookout for May 3, 2006, for more.
- Provide proof
- Finally, give some proof that the benefits are attainable with your solution. Proof can be a demonstration, a survey, a prototype, measurements, customer endorsements, endorsements of authorities, whatever you think will work.
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More articles on Effective Communication at Work:
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- Business speech and business writing are sometimes little more than high falutin' goofy talk, filled
with pretentious, overused images and puff phrases of unknown meaning. Here are some phrases that are
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- Publish an Internal Newsletter
- If you're responsible for an organizational effort with many stakeholders, communicating with them is
important to success. Publishing an internal newsletter is a great way to keep them informed.
- How to Listen to Someone Who's Dead Wrong
- Sometimes we must listen attentively to someone with whom we strongly disagree. The urge to interrupt
can be overpowering. How can we maintain enough self-control to really listen?
- Columbo Tactics: II
- This is Part II of a series showing how the less powerful can adapt the tactics of TV detective Lt.
Columbo when they're interacting with the more powerful.
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- Workplace conversation is difficult enough, because of stress, time pressure, and the complexity of
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Here's Part II of a small collection of their techniques.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 1: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 1.
- And on April 8: Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
- When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.