There are a number of reasons presenters get frustrated with their results. The most common is not getting the response they want. They spend hours putting together all the pertinent information, support it all with gorgeous visuals, work on their performance, and get what seems to be an energetic, positive response from the audience.
But … “no cigar,”as they say. They don’t win the project, make the sale, or get the action they want at the end of their talk.
It could be the structure of without a doubt, the most important part of the presentation—the closing (or “asking for the order”). If you don’t get this right, it really doesn’t matter how the other 98% of your presentation went!
So, let’s take a look at the most important elements of those final minutes in front of the decision-maker.
1. Know what’s possible. This is, no question, the weakest part of most presentations. The presenter hasn’t taken the time to really get to know the audience. I call it “getting under their skin.”
You absolutely need to understand their pain before you can propose the perfect solution. I had a colleague who spent months recently putting together a presentation to our local city council. It was a tremendously innovative approach to refurbishing and rebranding a landmark building that had previously been the city’s Science Center. I suggested taking a couple of aldermen to lunch with the intent of really understanding what they were looking for psychologically.
It’s amazing to me how many presenters don’t spend the time to really understand their audience and what their pain is.
I was concerned that my colleague’s approach was so brilliant and innovative that it might not be perceived as “that safe a bet.” After all, we know that government bodies like to play it safe—if there are problems down the road, elections can be lost.
The lunches never happened. The written response after he lost the bid highlighted the concerns about the ongoing operation of such an innovative project. He had asked for something they were unprepared to entertain, based on their experience and comfort zone. He hadn’t uncovered their concerns ahead of time, so hadn’t addressed them in the presentation.
So, know your audience inside out. Know their pain, what their frame of reference is, what power they have to grant what you’re asking for, and make sure you handle all their concerns as part of your presentation. Asking for too little or too much, won’t get you the response you’re looking for.
2. Ask for what you want up front. In a business situation, this is extremely important, but very few presenters seem to do it. They think that if they lead up to it with great arguments, they’ll have everyone onside and they can ask for what they want with great success. In many cases, that may be true.
However, I’ve seen too many presentations in which the outcome was unclear throughout the presentation and only at the end did the decision-maker understand what the request was to be. If the question, or request, is anything out of the ordinary, your chances of success drop dramatically. You don’t want to shock your audience into silence.
So, I’ve learned that telling your audience what you expect them to do at the start of your presentation is the best route. Do it right after you outline the problem and your solution: “At the end of my presentation, I’m going to ask you to approve the purchase of a new color printer with a purchase order signed by Tuesday.”
The remainder of your presentation focusses on all their perceived concerns and the benefits of purchasing this particular printer.
Those are the first two key elements of setting up your “ask.” The final four are coming later this week. Stay tuned.
If you have any thoughts or queries about “asking for the order,” drop me a line below. I look forward to hearing from you.