Master Your Message Blog

Be Careful What You Ask For

At a talk I gave last week on presentation structure (it was a little more exciting than it sounds!), I got asked a fabulous question during a break by one of the students in the audience.

She was preparing a presentation to a government body and wanted them to take action on an issue regarding immigration policies. She wanted them to change their policies — that was it. That was the intended action she was going to ask for.

Imagine if you were asked to change something you were doing that infringed on someone else’s rights, or was simply a workplace improvement. If you were left to try to figure out an appropriate action, you likely wouldn’t move forward with any great amount of gusto. How would you know it was the proper response?

In the case of government, you can magnify that indecision by several times factors.

Here’s the rule: if you don’t ask for something specific, you’ll get nothing.

At the end of your presentation, the action you ask for has to be specific, with no question as to the steps that must be taken to achieve it.

But there are two other very important aspects of any action request: it must be measurable and it must be realistic.

If it’s not measurable, how will you ever know if you’ve reached your objective? You might, but in many cases, an action without a date has no measurability. The action may always be “in process.” That a “cop out” that’s impossible to measure.

However, it there’s a date attached to it, it becomes extremely easy. You either make it by the date, or you don’t. If the date isn’t met, that makes the audience accountable and gives your objective life, and perhaps another follow-up presentation or meeting.

The final element has to do with the practicality of the request. In other words, is your request realistic?

Does your audience (in many cases, a single decision-maker) capable of granting what you ask for? Because asking for something that’s beyond the power of your audience will result in failure. They won’t be able to deliver your request.

On the other hand, asking for too little can be a huge, missed opportunity.

The bottom line is that when you “ask for the order,” you need to have done your homework. Know your audience. Know what they’re capable of granting. Think about whether you might be looking at two presentations, rather than just one.

Know your audience. Know what they’re capable of granting.

For example, do you need to present to management to get the green light to present to the board? What you ask for in each of these presentations will be different. Asking for the end-game action in the first instance may get you nothing. However, asking for a lesser action with the request for a follow-up presentation with further ask may be the answer.

So … when crafting your presentation, when you get to deciding what action you’re going for, make sure it’s specific, measurable, and realistic.

In your next presentation, be careful what you ask for.

Comments for this Post

Leave a Comment