Leg 2 of the Presenting Stool – Winning your Case

It has been the common practice for decades to begin all presentations, whether in person or remotely, using the same formula. Namely, stating the Subject, followed by the Agenda.

Unto itself, there is nothing wrong with this approach. However, over time the effectiveness of this approach has diminished primarily due to the changes in the method and mediums of communications.

Audiences today, time crunched as they are, multitasking furiously with little to no time for chit chat or presentation preambles, want to know a) why they should pay attention to begin with; and b) the value of doing so.

To this end, Louws looked outside the traditional venues of presenting, and fortuitously has arrived at a formula that answers both the above questions very successfully.

The answer came from the legal community. A community whose success and/or failure rests squarely on its ability to successfully prove its case to the satisfaction of the jury.

This same mentality haspervaded the corporate mindset. Managers are less likely to approve a budget just because it was approved the previous year. Brand folks are more likely to challenge the suppositions of its agency’s creative artwork than agree on it face value. Strategic recommendations are not approved just based on the credibility of the presenter.

The Case Approach

This approach is based on the supposition that the audience is less interested in buying into what’s being presented because it “sounds” good, and instead wants to be persuaded that it will get the job done as per expectations.

In other words “Prove it to me” has become the moniker of the corporate executive whose own future is also based on quantifiable performance.

We do not deviate from the normal Subject, Body, Conclusion outline. This is still a very workable and effective logical and linear flow.

But knowing that this outline was insufficient in getting and keeping an audience’s attention long enough to be convinced, here are the questions that helped us arrive at the Case Approach.

  1. “How do we state the subject in a way that will entice the audience to initially pay attention?”
  2. “How do we then hold their attention?”
  3. “How do we close the deal in a way that prompts action?”

And here it is – the Case Approach.

The Promise

In court the defense lawyer starts out with a simple premise. “I am here to show that my client is innocent of charges”.

Translating this to presentations, instead of starting with just a statement of the subject – “Today we will review 4th quarter results”, we follow the legal approach of making a Promise.

“We are here today to show you how the 4th quarter’s results will help us reposition our promotions against Wal-Mart in Q1 & Q2 of next year.”

Essentially, you are converting the subject into the essential value the audience can expect to gain from listening to the presentation.

This approach has been used for decades by the print news media whose practice it is to put sufficient grist into their headlines that it entices you to a) buy the paper; and b) read the article.

Two Cautions

  1. For you to get this right you must know what value is of key importance to your audience. In the case above, if “re-position promotions against Wal-Mart” is not the audience’s key concern or interest, you are just as likely to lose their interest as you would by just stating the generic subject alone.
  2. Translate the Promise into the audience’s lingo, not yours. “re-position promotions against Wal-Mart” may be how you might say it. However, think of who your audience is. They might be more than likely to say “Give Wal-Mart whiplash in Q1 & Q2 next year” (you heard this stated in the hallway during a discussion between the Promotions Director and the CMO)

The Proof

Following logic, once you make a promise to an audience, you are required to now Prove that you can deliver which is why we refer to this next section as The Proof.

Therefore, the Body of the presentation is now considered the Proof or Evidence that you can deliver as promised.

Having the mindset that you are there to prove your point also makes your presentation that much more succinct and far less likely to waffle aimlessly.

Your entire purpose then is to prove what you promised. If there is information that might tangentially support your promise, stick it where it belongs – in the Appendix. Referred to as “circumstantial evidence”.

Occasionally you will run into situations where you just do not have the tangible evidence or it is insufficient in volume to help you prove your case. In these cases look to using analogies, examples and case studies that help you build a circumstantial case. (See Leg 1 of Presenting – Story Telling, covered in Louws’ Blogs in November. http://www.louwstraining.com/the-louw-down-blog/meeting-presentation-skills/presenting-the-4-legged-stool/

The Close

This is where, as in any court case, you summarize using the most pertinent evidence presented that supports your case in proving your promise.

This, too, streamlines the end of your presentation and avoids the typical generic rhetoric.

Caution

When you close (summarize) do so by the purest definition of what a summary means; “brief and comprehensive; concise”.

Keep it brief, on point and entirely geared to summarizing the evidence that proves the promise you made.

In Summation:

To simplify, think of this as the PPC approach. Promise – Proof – Close.

Ensure you truly understand what your audience’s expectations are, as an effective promise is dependent upon it.

Provide evidence not opinion.

Close your case by briefly highlighting the evidence, proving the promise made.

Our next blog will be on Leg 3 of the Presenting Stool – Bringing your Case Alive.

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