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:
- Virtual Communications: II
- Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part
II of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.
- The Uses of Empathy
- Even though empathy skills are somewhat undervalued in the workplace context, we do use them, for good
and for ill. What is empathy? How is it relevant at work?
- Why Dogs Make the Best Teammates
- Dogs make great teammates. It's in their constitutions. We can learn a lot from dogs about being good
- Four Overlooked Email Risks: II
- Email exchanges are notorious for exposing groups to battles that would never occur in face-to-face
conversation. But email has other limitations, less-often discussed, that make managing dialog very
difficult. Here's Part II of an exploration of some of those risks.
- I Don't Understand: I
- When someone makes a statement or offers an explanation that's unclear or ambiguous, there are risks
associated with asking for clarification. The risks can seem so terrifying that we decide not to ask.
What keeps us from seeking clarification?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 8: Multi-Expert Consensus
- Some working groups consist of experts from many fields. When they must reach a decision by consensus, members have several options. Defining those options in advance can help the group reach a decision with all its relationships intact. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
- And on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
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