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Presenting Ideas Effectively: Speak To The Audience's Interests

Presenting your ideas persuasively takes a bit of work. The first thing you must do is figure out how to frame the problem, and your solution, in terms that are clearly in the interests of the people you are trying to persuade. This article will help you decide on your best approach.

Presenting ideas effectively to audiences that are at best indifferent, and at worst skeptical, is a challenge. But if getting your idea adopted in the workplace or getting your boss to buy into it is important to you, making an effective presentation is still the best way to go.

Your first challenge may be to get them to actually show up for your presentation. Why should they take the time out of their busy schedule? The question you must answer to accomplish this is, "What's in it for them?"

Of course you know why your idea is important to YOU, but why should THEY care? People are busy, and the higher their level the busier they are and the more expensive their time, so you must convince them that your idea and your presentation will be worth their while. How do you do that? Learn to put yourself figuratively inside their heads.

Let's say, for example, you are a supervisor in the Accounting Department. You have been short staffed for some time. To make matters worse, one of your clerks is on maternity leave, and her work has been divided up and covered by the other clerks. Everyone is stressed because of work overload. Your idea is to hire a temp to handle the missing employee's work until she returns, which will be about four months.

The worst thing you can do is approach management on the basis that this would make your job, or the jobs of the others in your department, easier. That doesn't speak to the immediate interests of your employer. Let's consider a few approaches you might take:

Everyone is overworked and stressed. No good --- senior managers are probably also stressed and this won't move you onto their priority lists.

Work is piling up. No good --- just makes you sound incompetent.

Invoices are going out late. Now we're getting somewhere --- this begins to get their attention, but it's not quite there yet.

Because of late invoicing, customer bills are being paid late. Much better.

We have a cash flow problem. Bingo! This is something that's important to the company and speaks to management's interests. This is the best approach of all.

So you might say something like this:

As you know, the firm is experiencing a cash flow problem because customer payments are coming in much later than they should. This is caused by a temporary issue in Accounts Payable, and is unlikely to improve unless we make a change. I have some ideas on how we can quickly and easily remedy the problem and return our cash flow to the way it should be. May I present my ideas to you on Friday morning in your office?

Now when you do the presentation itself, your job will be to frame the problem by expanding on this message before presenting your solution. Make them fully understand the issue in financial terms, in business terms. Then clearly illustrate how your solution will bring the cash flow back into alignment, thus saving money. This will not only give you a chance of getting what you want, but will also illustrate your ability to think like a manager --- which can only be good for your career.

So in presenting your ideasScience Articles, remember to let your audience see how it is in their interests to adopt them.

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Helen Wilkie is a professional speaker, workshop leader and author specializing in communication. Call 416-966-5023 for information on her presentation skills workshops. Subscribe to Helen's no-cost monthly e-zine, "Communi-keys", at and get your free 40-page e-book, "23 ideas you can use RIGHT NOW to communicate and succeed in your business career!"

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