The room is full of business people in “business casual” dress. It’s the IT department turn to present and they are ready. The techsmarthere is revved up. The projector has been focused. They’ve practiced extensively over the past week, refining their message, practicing with their slides: they are thoroughly prepared for this moment. IT is eager to explain how the newest technology will contribute to the overall success of the organization.
Thirty minutes later, the presentation is over, the PowerPoint’s finished and the business people in the room are frustrated and annoyed. The IT staff is wondering what just happened. Their brilliantly detailed and highly accurate PowerPoint presentation was interrupted by questions unrelated to the technology. The help desk department wanted to know how the new technology would improve call-processing time.
The accounting department wanted to know how the technology would work with the general ledger system. The sales organization didn’t understand why the change was even needed. After all, the sales force knew the old system and they didn’t see anything wrong with it. What started as hopeful and creative ended with heartache and confusion. What went wrong?
Presentation Basics: Know Your Audience
The IT department in the story above didn’t understand their audience. Do you?
As you lead your organization, you intellectually know that IT does not exist for the sake of IT. IT exists to support the larger organization in making money. But do your presentations show it?
The best IT presenters know the members of the audience, if not individually, then in general terms. They know what it is the different departments care about and how those concerns relate to IT. They know the case of new technology how any changes to the status quo will improve the condition of those other departments and address their concerns. The smart IT department builds the presentation around the needs of the company to make more money or cut costs – not on whether or not the IT staff gets to use the latest and greatest technology. The best IT presentations reflect that fact.
Getting to Know Your Audience
The best way to get to know what the audience for your presentation cares about is to ask them. Interview representatives from the different departments that will attend your presentation. Ask them what their focus is, what their concerns are, and their knowledge on the subject of your presentation. Understand what their issues are, both from a technology and a business perspective. What do they care about and how does it relate to technology.
If you can’t answer the questions of how what you have planned from a technology perspective will help them out, then don’t present until you figure it out. Every audience member wants to know what’s in it for them. Find out what’s in it for your audience and give provide for their needs during the presentation.
Eliminate the Boring
No one likes to be bored. But the definition of boring is in the eye of the beholder. New technology is exciting for IT professionals, but boring for everyone else. What’s exciting to people is what interests and benefits them. While you may have brilliant material and in-depth understanding of the new technology, those outside of IT really don’t care. Don’t bore them with the technical details. Save that material for a presentation to your staff. For the business side, excite them with what the new technology can do for them. Help them see how the new technology will make them look good with increased revenues or decreased costs. Your audience will never tire of hearing of they ways you can help them look good.
Often in business presentations, we fail to take advantage of some of the strongest tools to enhance our message. These tools include stories, analogies, and emotional appeals. Paint a picture of improved call processing through a story. Explain the newest technologies by relating it to everyday examples that the business departments can relate to then draw a comparison that helps them understand the benefits to them.
Appeal to the larger human emotions that connect people to one another: a sense of belonging, pride, humor, the greater good. Link what your business does for your customers to a bigger human condition that makes a difference. The wireless phone company that can call grandparents from the delivery room to say, “It’s a girl!” The car company whose seat belt saved a mother’s life. The insurance payout that saved a family’s house after a young father’s death. Stories of success and appeals to the emotions tie our audience to us and to our message. Look for ways to add humanity to the message you deliver.
Presentations don’t have to be painful. With attention to the audience’s needs, eliminating unnecessary technological explanations and adding the human element to presentations we can prevent annoyance on the part of the business and bewilderment on part of IT. After all sometimes, technology doesn’t matter.