A presentation, meeting or training course that doesn’t meet your audience’s expectations can be a very disheartening experience. We live in an extremely fast paced and busy world where most of us are overwhelmed with information, opinions and the beliefs of others.
When we give up some of our extremely valuable time to listen to someone share their ideas, we need to be absolutely certain that they will respect it. If you promise one thing but deliver something else you will quickly lose their attention, trust and regard. I experienced the poor management of expectations myself only this week and the damage it can cause.
When our expectations aren’t met it leads to nothing but disappointment and frustration.
How many presentations have you attended where the speaker told you how much they know, have achieved and how great their company is but haven’t told you how they can help you.
Perhaps you’ve been to one of those presentations which could have been given in at least half the time or communicated just as effectively in an email.
Maybe you expected to learn something new in a presentation, only to sit patiently for 20 minutes hearing what you already knew or could easily have worked out for yourself.
How do you do it?
1. If you’re going to get them to do an exercise then tell them in advance and be sure to tell them exactly why. Don’t leave it for them to work it out or simply tell them that’s what you always do. Ask yourself why you are really doing it and what tangible difference it will make to them. If you can’t come up with a really good answer then leave it out.
2. Demonstrate how much you value their time by letting them know the rationale behind what you are sharing and its personal significance to them. Don’t make them guess or leave the room without a clue. Just because you know it doesn’t mean they can read your mind. If we set people’s expectations well in advance we avoid the risk of them leaving the room feeling let down.
3. Find out as much as you possibly can about who they are and what help they need before you present to them. Find out how they like to be presented to or prefer to learn. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Don’t just ask them what challenges they have, let them know up front why you believe your content, material, message and approach will help them. If it’s at all possible try to speak with them before you begin crafting your presentation.
5. Just because you’ve been saying or doing the same thing for years, don’t assume that it works for everyone. We are all different; do your homework and establish in advance whether what you have to offer will be of value to them. If you believe it won’t then be honest and tell them. Whilst we don’t like turning business away we have declined to work with some clients over the years because we don’t believe we can help them.
6. If someone challenges you or asks a question don’t just tell them that’s the way it is and ask them to simply accept it. Open up a meaningful conversation.
7. Give them what they’ve asked for and what you’ve promised and don’t pad it out. If you promise to help them feel more confident whilst presenting then give them the tools to do so.
I know it sounds like a great deal of work and that’s because it is. Presenting to or training fellow human beings is an incredible honour and we owe it to our audience to manage their expectations very clearly.
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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
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