How to Succeed in Business Presentations: Accounting for Individual Communication Styles
I recently attended a seminar presented by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) on the topic of effectively presenting strategic and creative ideas to clients and potential clients. The essence of the presentation revolved around this common scenario: Your team has developed an expert strategy or prepared awesome creative executions, but even the best ideas can go down in flames if not presented properly.
One of the major points of the seminar was identifying different communication styles and why it's so important to account for this when you're trying to get an idea across to others. Using the basic framework of the Briggs-Meyers personality test, we understand that people tend to fall into one of four communication styles: driver (to the point), analytical (show me the data), expressive (energetic, lots of questions), or amiable (friendly, engage in small talk). Most of us have seen this or a similar analysis before, but I can honestly say I hadn't looked at this approach to communication in a while and found it refreshing to do a quick review of my style as well as those I communicate with on a regular basis.
Of course, the challenge comes when you are communicating with someone whose style is the opposite of yours or, more frequently, when you're communicating with a group composed of multiple styles. Out of the discussion, there were a few take-aways that I have made an effort to start employing:
- Be sure you fully identify your own style and are honest with yourself when doing so. Knowing your own communication style not only tells you where your strengths lie, but also dictates what adjustments you need to make when dealing with each of the other styles.
- While we can't change our natural disposition, we can certainly work to adopt the most beneficial qualities of each style. Drivers value an agenda and getting things accomplished; analyticals do their homework and provide evidence; expressives bring energy to a meeting; amiable communicators are gifted at developing a genuine rapport with others. Take cues from other styles as possible areas of improvement.
- When faced with a group presentation to varying styles, it's important to gauge the dynamics among the group that you're talking to. Does the style of the most senior person dominate or does someone else on the team appear to set the tone? You want to respect the natural dynamics of the team and look for opportunities to use those dynamics in your presentation. Pose questions to the expressive; they'll engage you regardless and you can control the discussion better if you provide the topic. If the person in charge is a driver, always respect the agenda and resist getting off course. Have supporting evidence for the analytic even if it's not part of your main presentation.
Certainly, there's more to a true analysis of communication styles and more still to integrating this concept into your key presentations or meetings. But the core ideas of knowing your own style, emulating positive aspects of other styles and dealing with a varied group are fundamentals that I believe have universal benefits. And not just with formal presentations, but for internal situations as well. Whether you're talking to a group or an individual, you're better positioned for a successful outcome if you acknowledge and account for the importance of communication styles.
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