Executive Excellence Series (3 of 50): Spending an Exorbitant Amount of Time and Effort on Internal Presentations

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Internal presentations usually take all the qualities of bad meetings and make them worse. Of course, some meetings have extreme value. Likewise, some internal presentations are essential. For example, if your division needs to go through a process re-engineering that requires a hefty budget increase and stakeholder buy-in, a succinct and solid presentation of the rationale behind the change and the benefits it will return may be advisable.  Conversely, your team members need to implement the re-engineering. It’s their job. You shouldn’t have to sell it to them with a presentation.

Clearly, there may be training involved for your team. That’s different. If you create time-intensive presentations about the process and expectations, you’re not going to achieve what you want: individual and group comprehension and empowerment. Here’s why:

Internal presentations are inherently ‘talk at, not with’ in nature. In that regard, they are even less engaging than too many meetings in which one person — often you — does all the talking while the other participants’ give up on adding value. Assuming that you want participation in taking action to achieve an end, and that is why you’re giving a presentation or holding a meeting, you don’t want to be standing in front of the room telling. You need to be sitting with people one-on-one, or in small groups asking.

Internal presentations typically deliver information based on the assumption that the audience is on a level playing field with the equal amount of need for the content, capacity to grasp it, and ability to learn — get value — from it in the presentation format. In fact, a roomful of people have wildly diverse needs, capacity and learning styles. Most presentations are more about the presenter speaking the way the content makes sense to him, rather than the way it gives value to the audience.

Internal presentations deliver up too many opportunities for disengagement. The presentation starts at a certain time, ends at a certain time and a period for questions is typically factored in. Even if the audience is sincerely interested in the material, so interested as to be writing down their own questions for the Q&A period, they are highly likely to just ‘check out’ while waiting for the time when their question gets answered. Engagement is lost because the exchange of information isn’t happening at the moment of enthusiasm that spawned the question.

Internal presentations are usually too long to be productive. If you work hard at creating valuable content for an audience that is as diverse as we usually overlook that they are, you’ve probably put a lot of content in. The result, a lengthy meeting or presentation which, according to Psychology Today can tax cognitive stamina, not only loses you the attention of your audience, but it can cause these depleted executive resources to make the attendees less productive the remainder of the day.

The bottom line is that for internal presentations to be successful, they need to create action. For action to happen, the audience needs to be engaged. Basically, all the reasons that most meetings are a waste of time are the same reasons that most internal presentations are a waste of time. Only, the lack of opportunity to engage during a presentation exacerbates them. Get your engagement from one-on-one, group work sessions, brainstorming sessions and focus groups instead. Communicate to engage — to talk with, not at.

 Additional Reading

Employee Engagement in the Workplace is More Than Just a Business Problem, MetaExperts MagEzine

Avoiding Meetings Burnout, MetaExperts MagEzine

Avoid Information Overload, MetaExperts MagEzine

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