DOUGLAS KRUGER, CSP, is a
Hall of Fame speaker. He is the author
of seven business books. Sign up
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Expert,” at DouglasKruger.com.
your points with clear logic and persuasive benefits that speak for
themselves. Avoid anything accusatory. Use a tone that says, “Let’s
explore a fascinating idea together …”
Management orientation is out. If your message is delivered as though your concern is making the lives of leadership easier, the audience will see no value for them. Re-orient the content
to show how it might help them with career goals. It’s the difference
between “Management wants you to be nicer to customers” and
“The better you serve customers, the more you will be seen as a
You must acknowledge their fears and objections,
but in a way that is non-judgmental. For example, when I
speak on innovation, I explore the notion that people become
so emotionally invested in old ways of doing things that they
resist change. I tell stories about other brands befallen by this
problem, thus removing that audience from the line of fire. I also
actively sympathize with characters in my stories, saying, “You
can understand it. It’s deeply human.”
Now here’s the catch … While striving not to repeat manage-
ment mantras, it is possible to leave management itself feeling
that you didn’t meet their brief. The fact is, you did. You simply
disguised it so artfully that it looked like a different creature. In
this way, you might get the job done well, yet not appear to do so.
Now, let’s solve that side of the problem.
Always start by getting a good brief from the
department or manager who “owns the problem.”
Who wanted you at this event and why? Take notes about
their frustrations. Be seen doing so.
Use phrases like, “I’d like to customize this.
What challenges are you facing?” When they provide this information, state that the insights are useful
and that you will incorporate them.
Customize your presentation and make it
look customized. Your message should genuinely be
designed for that audience. But more, it should look that
way: Add their logo to your slides. Do they have a theme?
Use it. Show photos of their building or product as you
discuss a principle relevant to them.
Mention one of their competitors. This reference
to their “enemy” also shows customization.
Be emotionally present and speak in the tone
of a lively conversation. If they are celebrating a
milestone, congratulate them. If something humorous
or poignant has happened, incorporate it. These small
touches go a long way with the organizer.
Employ rhetorical techniques to maintain the
sense of a conversation. “Has that ever happened to
you?”; “I was thinking about the challenge you’re facing.
It’s similar to something Apple went through…” These
cues transform your style, and they are signals to management that you are addressing agreed-upon issues.
SERVING TWO MASTERS
The answer to the question, “Whom should I please, the
audience or management?” is really both. But there are
competing dynamics to manage.
You must work hard to make the audience feel you
are on their side and that you are here in the moment,
discussing brilliant ideas of benefit to them. But you also
must subtly indicate to management that this presentation is designed to meet their goals.
It’s a lot of psychology. But that’s why top speakers
command high fees. It’s not the hour on stage; it’s the
understanding of the total scenario. That’s what makes
you a pro. ■