March 14, 2009

Know your audience – KBAM presentation

Note: This entry is not specific to any person or team from MBE

Today's presentation was interesting for a few reasons. First Paul went into a lot of effort to make this 'class presentation' as 'real-life' as possible. Everything from the room layout, assign board of director, company background information added realism. Second, every team responded to this which is apparent from the heightened sense of seriousness, dress code, keeping to time, highly selective on the material presented. 

How have we performed overall?

  • As a class presentation? Quite well I think.
  • As a real consultant presentation? We will get a 'D' at most, for participation

Why such low grade? Well, mostly because our presentation lacked 'persuasion' which is the feeling that we must start now and have some initial steps to work with. No feeling of urgency or practicality was conveyed by many teams, instead we had a lot of 'nice to have' reasons to implement KM or AM. Well, guess what! business executives ain't going to invest in big projects simply because it is 'nice to have'.

"Are you mad? How can you say that? We suggested many real solutions to Waveriders!". Yes, you did, teams tried several ways to be 'real', some made up problems they claimed exists within WR. Some try to match their chosen AM systems to WR's EU expansion strategy and claim it is 'useful' or 'nice' to have this system in place. But I doubt any of the board members was actually thinking "Oh my goodness, look at our company! It's broken, we must do something fast to fix it!". Rather, they were probably more like "Okay... I know these benefits, tell me something I don't know, like where do I start, what is the pay back period, give me something concrete numbers here..."

One thing I learnt from this presentation, and the process of creating it, is the importance of looking at the problem/issue as realistically as possible. Paul can do everything to make this realistic, but at the end of the day it is still up to us - the presenters to think realistic as well. The reason I say this is I noticed many teams (myself included) fell in the trap of doing things the same old way- focus on what the tools are and why they are important - pretty much straight out of any books on KM or AM. 

What our KM team (francisco aykut and smily) did excellently (in my opinion) was to forget about the WHAT, the WHY but focus only on the HOW. Why is that? Because the directors probably are not very interested in hearing about WHAT is Knowledge Management or Facility Management because they probably know it more that we do. They are probably not interested in the 'theoretical' benefits either unless we can back them up with real cases (as Paul repeated pointed out from many teams).  But to do this wold require

  1. Experience and knowledge about what make the executives tick (probably money $$$)
  2. A holistic understanding of the topic in order to apply KM/AM theories into practice.

One possible way to get closer to this goal would be to carry out research on HOW people actually implement it in practice, any real cases, why they have succeeded or failed. So if we get asked "How do you know this works?", we can confidently say " X Inc. implemented this Y years ago, it cost them Z dollars and they started making profit from it after U years".

To be fair, this was problematic from a lot of us because we are not used to this type of presentation. We are used to the 'theory' type of presentation where we learn what is A and why is A important, lectures, books, seminars all follow this format. But to a non-academic business executive, what is more important is how do we do it, how much does it cost, is the benefit immediate, does cost outweigh benefit? Things that depend on situation given, and require substantial industrial experience knowledge in order to say it with confidence.

It is possible had Paul worded the topic differently, we would have come up with a better approach. But I think he left it quite open ended to avoid putting too much constraint on our material and style. Nevertheless, with some deeper thinking, we could have arrived there as well.

This experience illustrate something about any public speaking we already knew but always forget to practice. "Know your audience". What do they really want to know? What are their interest? and most important WHY would they sit there fore 20 min listen to me. If we can think about that deeply before we prepare any presentation, we will bump our presentation quality up several notches.


- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Very good points Louis. “Know your Audience” will be a phrase I will use in the future : )
    But I just want to add something about “Oh my goodness, look at our company! It’s broken, we must do something fast to fix it!”.
    I think it was Billy that was doing the introduction part of their presentation and actually at their first two slides they listed eveything that was wrong with waveriders. Well I know it’s important to show those things but also I know how I “felt” (come on I was trying to get in the role), and now I think expressing those shortcomings right at the beginning of presentation might create a resistance against the whole approach, if language is not used properly.
    I haven’t though enough to find out if it’s doable,yet : ), but I think part of consultancy should be “coaching” board of directors to see those things by themselves, thus minimizing the resistance… ?

    15 Mar 2009, 22:31

  2. Paul Roberts

    Louis, congratulations on your insightful, reflective blog. You have demonstrated the depth of reflective thinking that helps to develop deep learning. Because you have analysed the effectiveness of the presentations yourself, your findings lead to true understanding that will be embedded in your very being. You have taken the time and effort to share your thinking and this will help others to reflect and consider the issues discussed in your entry. I am sure that if I had said these things as part of a debrief there would have been the tendency for brief reflection before moving on to the next assignment or topic that demands attention.

    Aykut, I understand your concerns, and you are correct in saying that care must be taken in the language used when explaining what is broken to the Board of Directors, whose members may have thin skins when their part of the organization is coming under scrutiny. However, the Board knew that things had to change which is why they brought in your consultancy (at great expense). I also agree with your comment that a coaching approach would help the Board to take ownership of the improvement plan, but such coaching would come after an overview presentation such as those on Friday.

    19 Mar 2009, 08:43


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