Are business leaders asking the right questions?

This Forbes.com blog post by Steve Denning argues that in some companies, business presentations are merely a ritual meant to impress the next level up, rather than a productive use of time to make products better for customers.

It is probably true there are companies like this. But while these business meetings may seem like a waste of time, they are in fact a visible symptom of a bigger problem. Business leaders are not asking the right questions.

Let me explain.

  1. Every business presentation should answer the audience’s question. If you’re using business meetings to regurgitate existing knowledge, that’s a waste of time. But if the question is: how do we delight customers more? Then that’s a good use of time. If they don’t have a question in their mind, and you are calling the meeting, then use the meeting to plant the question in their mind and then answer it.
  2. Different audience, different deck. Time is not “wasted” when you are re-doing your presentation to meet the needs of different audiences. Rather, re-using the same slides for different audiences, although faster, typically leads to less effective communications. Why? Because each audience has a different question. The execs want to know what this will cost and how success will be measured. Marketing wants to know what are the features and benefits of the new product. Operations wants to know what is changing and when.  A great way to “waste” time is to re-use the same deck for every single audience.
  3. Are we asking the right questions? If presentations are not leading to delighted customers, perhaps the problem is that the business leaders are asking the wrong questions. Most employees, especially those who work eye-to-eye with customers like technical support and sales, want to hear presentations that tell them how to delight customers.  If business presentations are not spitting out the answer to that question, then perhaps business leaders are asking the wrong question.

If there is a problem with business presentations, it may be that business leaders are not asking the right questions. Business meetings are not the cause of that, they are the most visible symptoms.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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