When you were a kid you might have played “whispering down the lane.” That’s the game where someone starts a brief message, whispers it to someone else, and so on down the line. By the time the last person is asked to repeat the message, it only vaguely resembles the original.
The same can be true for presentation requests. Your boss or a colleague asks you to present “something on the techno-widget account.” You dutifully organize a multi-media, techno-widget extravaganza. About 20 minutes into your show the VP of Sales interrupts with “Uh, I just wanted to know how the contract talks are going and what the next steps will be.” The room becomes silent. You give him what he wants in about 90 seconds. VP is now happy. You are embarrassed.
Presentation Tip #2: Always go to the source
Only the person who issued the request knows what he or she wants. You won’t know the real scope of your presentation without confirming their expectations. It will save you preparation time. It will keep you focused. It will make you successful.
I was conducting a Presentations workshop for a corporate group in Pennsylvania. One of the participants mentioned that he was there specifically to work on a presentation for the company president. His immediate boss, a VP, had given him the directive and told him that the presentation topic was to be 45 minutes long. (I’ll deal with the “you have ____minutes” issue in another post).
I knew the president very well. I also knew that he didn’t want more than 20 minutes on anything. So I turned on the speaker phone in the conference room, called the prez, and explained what we were doing. When we asked him directly what his expectations were, he quickly responded, ” I want no more than 10 minutes on the market research that we’re doing for the Scandinavian venture.”
Regardless of who asks you to speak, find out who actually requested you. That’s who to talk with about expectations. And that’s who will help make you successful.
In case you missed it, click here for Presentation Tip #1