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You’re up there with all eyes on you for one reason: to get your audience to that golden destination where they’re compelled to act or adopt your big idea. I call it point B and it’s the purpose of your presentation.
The trouble is, despite how intently you follow the steps laid out in my earlier article, you’re likely to come up against some resistance that hinders you getting there. These are the obstacles that stand between you and your audience – and an arrival at point B.
Behold, the presentation Karen. I sympathise if you’ve come up against one (and I apologise to all the people actually called Karen for continuing to perpetuate this stereotype!) You know the person though… They’re looking to burst your bubble or poke holes in your argument, waiting til the very last moment of the Q&A to start picking your idea apart.
Sadly, there are almost always going to be naysayers and old dogs that are resistant to new tricks – in this case, any idea that requires a bit of faith in something new.
So Karens can be an obstacle, but there are a bunch of hidden obstacles too. The small preoccupations that stop your audience from fully jumping onboard your bandwagon. From competing priorities to fatigue, the things standing in your way can roughly be categorised as follows:
Your idea is too costly and there’s scarce room in the budget. Perhaps it competes with other priorities, or other ideas already pitched seem like a stronger investment. Your audience may be risk-averse. These hurdles are entirely rational, and getting past them can take stellar powers of persuasion.
We all have deeply-entrenched belief systems – and opinions – that can be pretty difficult to dislodge. They’re built upon our unconscious biases and moral codes. Organisations can be like people with these unshakable devotions too. Your idea might need a little reframing to cut through the status quo.
You might be catching your audience at a bad time. Post-lunch on a Friday in a warm room isn’t a great formula for an optimally-engaged audience. A fatigued or distracted audience is likely to tune out before you even begin your journey to point B.
When you present your integrity and likeability are at stake. No matter how great your pitch, the audience’s perception of you will influence their trust in your big idea. How can you win them over?
If you anticipate these obstacles early, you’re more likely to be able to jump right over them. Here are some strategies for avoiding obstacles.
Structure your content around them
Identify each obstacle your idea is likely to encounter and demystify them in plain sight – in front of your audience at each major point in your presentation. They know where the problems lie, and if you can leverage them, or state exactly how you’ll mitigate them, you’ve got a much more convincing argument. Those pesky situational obstacles can also be allayed with some well-placed state changes.
Make the most of them from the beginning
Opening with the biggest elephant in the room can have a pretty powerful impact. If you can immediately address their most major obstacle, you’re away. Consider even something like the title slide of your presentation – often-neglected real estate for a key message. Make this compelling and they’ll be all-ears.
Anticipate them for those cut-throat Q&As
The obstacles you identify in your planning are an indicator of the kinds of questions you’re going to be hit with from the naysayers. Don’t get caught in the firing line – come prepared. Practice your presentation with a colleague and have them identify any weak points or question marks so you can prepare to handle them with grace.
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