Tuesday, 25 July 2017

‘Positive Framing’ gets you through the stickier bits of a business presentation

Business presentations are not all about trumpeting good news, advantages and benefits; in most cases they need to cover off less positive points – failures even. With ‘positive framing’, however, the overall upbeat mood can often be sustained and maybe even enhanced.

I was reminded of this recently while coaching post-graduate students and graduate trainees, all of whom showed admirable respect for doing as they had been told. The graduate trainees had been instructed to conclude with ‘Achievements’ and ‘Lessons Learned’, so we saw presentations with generally well-trumpeted ‘Achievements’, followed by phrases such: “Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to …...” – which formed the conclusion to their presentation.

My feedback focused on two key points:

1)    You simply must end on some positives, so see if you can slip ‘Lessons Learned’ in before ‘Achievements’. If you really can’t, then add a short, sharp and positive over-arching ‘Call to Action’ at the very end.

2)    Leave out negative words such as ‘unfortunately’ and reframe your ‘Lessons Learned’ along the following lines: ‘What I will do in future is make extra time to do X so that I can achieve a more thorough understanding of Y and Z.”

Many of the post-grads, meanwhile, were acutely aware that they had not been able to fulfil all the requirements of the pitch they were giving to join an incubator programme. Their instinct was to keep quiet about those elements and hope no one noticed or enquired.

My feedback here tended to be:

1)    Leave the ‘missing/lacking’ items in your agenda so it is clear that you are not hiding from them.

2)    When you get to the part about plans going forward come back to those ‘missing/lacking’ items and stress that these would be among your first priorities when you join the programme. Ideally, explain how much more effectively you will be able to address those issues at this later stage.

I am conscious that there is scope here to get into the realms of ‘spin’, if not actual ‘BS’. But I firmly believe that these examples qualify neither as spin, nor BS. They actually fall within the more general practice of using strong language and positives when communicating. Specifically, these examples also demonstrate that the presenter has learned the lessons/understood what was needed, together with how they are going to apply and prioritise those learnings in the future.