January 11, 2008

Deadly mistakes presenters make, 3 and 4

Some more details on the seven deadly mistakes presenters make:

Mistake #3. Focusing on what you want from your audience.

Most of the time, you deliver a presentation because you want something from your audience. You are selling a product, an idea, or a new set of skills; why else would you go through the bother of writing and delivering a presentation unless you wanted something from your audience? But that’s your motivation for being there, not theirs. What is their motivation for listening to you? The only reason your audience is listening to you is that they are hoping for some information that will help them do something better or solve one of the many problems they are facing in life. If you want to capture and keep their attention, focus your entire presentation deliberately and undividedly on solving an important problem of theirs.

Mistake #4. Only including evidence that supports your recommendation.

It is tempting to include only facts and arguments that support your case in your presentation, because you want to strengthen your case, not weaken it. However, all the empirical research confirms that audiences will find you more credible—and more convincing—if you also include the arguments against your recommendation (and then carefully rebut each one of them.) Lawyers call this “stealing thunder”: if you bring up an objection first, that objection has far less force than if someone in your audience does.


3 Responses to Deadly mistakes presenters make, 3 and 4

  1. Terry Gault says:

    Thanks for this post. These are excellent points.
    As for Mistake #3, this refers to the Wii4M question: “What’s in it for me?” I tell all my presentation workshop participants that they must be able to answer that question for their audience. If it’s not answered, they are less likely to be persuaded – that’s true. On a more fundamental level, they are far less likely to even pay attention or to “get” the point of the presentation.
    It reminds me of a quote from Olin Miller, “You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”
    We are all so caught up in thinking about making our lives better, if people aren’t talking about that, it’s hard for them to get our interest

  2. Terry Gault says:

    As for “Mistake #4”, this exact point was echoed in the book, “Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder” by by Vincent Bugliosi, author of “Helter Skelter” and the prosecutor of Charles Manson.
    He says that to be an effective trial lawyer, you need to make your opponents case before they do. They rebut each point, as you suggest here. That steals the power of their case and shifts more power to yours.
    Thanks for the post.

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks Terry! I like to think of the audience problem as the distillation of the WIIFM – if you center your presentation on helping solve a serious problem that your audience has, then you are guaranteed that there is SIIIFD (Something Important In It For Them). Thanks also for suggesting the “Outrage” example (like a true story teller, you illustrate your point with a story). Yes, “stealing thunder” is a tactic that good trial lawyers know well, and the rest of us would benefit from learning. A good academic study on this is Williams, Bourgeois, and Croyle (1993), “The effects of stealing thunder in criminal and civil trials,” Law and Human Behavior, 17 (6), 597-609.

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