Effective Business Plan Presentations

In my career as a college professor of public speaking and in my private communication consulting and coaching practice, I have helped thousands of people learn to better present their messages in order to get the results they want. 

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the three purposes of public speaking and where business plan presentations would fall, how to analyze your audience to determine the most appropriate details and organization for your presentation, and finally how to best organize and present your business plan.  Let’s get started!

First, it’s important to know the three purposes of public speaking.  They are to inform, to persuade, and to entertain.  Which purpose would presenting your business plan fall into?  Clearly, presenting a business plan is not for pure enjoyment or entertainment purposes, so we can cross that off the list.  You might be tempted to think that presenting a plan is informative, and therefore, the purpose is to inform.  But that’s actually not correct.  While you absolutely need to inform your audience of the details in your plan, your purpose for presenting those details will likely be to persuade your audience to act.  After all, the reason you created a business plan is to guide the action of your business as you move forward.  When your purpose is to create action, your goal then, by definition is persuasive in nature. 

Next, now that you know your goal is to persuade your audience, you’ll need to take at look at who you will be persuading.  With business plans, you may have multiple groups to present to.  You may have to present to your employees, board of directors, stockholders, and other internal audiences.  You may also want to present your plan to external audiences such as lending institutions or other potential investors.  As a result, you will need to create multiple presentations for the same plan.  Why?  Because each audience’s needs are different.

Before putting together your presentation, you’ll need to determine who your audience is and what their goals are.  You’ll need to analyze the demographics, values and attitudes of your audience.  Demographic details such as age, sex, race, religious affiliation, political affiliation, education level, socioeconomic status, income, geographic location, marital status, and occupation, could all play a role to some extent in determining what information you’ll need to provide.  Next, think about what your audience values.  Employees will have different values than potential investors, so be sure to emphasize the points relevant to each group.  Finally, think about your audience’s attitude toward your topic.  Often audiences will be favorable to your topic.  But sometimes you will be dealing with a neutral, apathetic, or even unfavorable crowd.  What you present and how you present it will be determined by your analysis of the audience.  You should not ever use the same “canned” speech for every audience.  While you may be able to present much of the same key information, you’ll need to adjust certain details based on who you are speaking to. 

Now that you know your purpose is to persuade and you’ve analyzed your various audiences, you can put your presentation together.  One powerful way to persuade an audience is to use an organization pattern known as motivated sequence.  The motivated sequence pattern allows you to present details in a way that encourage your audience to take action now.  Here’s the pattern:

I.  Attention Step

In this step you would complete an introduction to your topic.  Begin with a brief story, some startling statistics, or several compelling rhetorical questions.  Next relate your topic to your audience using the information you gathered from your audience analysis.  Then you can preview your upcoming points and transition to the second step.

II.  Need Step

This is where you outline a problem.  Why did you create a new plan?  What are some challenges facing your organization?  Provide as many relevant details to your audience as possible.

III.  Satisfaction Step

In this step, you explain your solutions to the problem and challenges you presented in the previous step.  Again, use as many relevant details as possible.

IV.  Visualization Step

In this step, you help your audience see how your solution and the ideas you present in your plan will work.  One technique to achieve this visualization is asking your audience to “picture this…”  Or, you can provide an example of what another successful organization in your industry has done that is similar to your plan and how the results have benefited that organization.  If your audience can see themselves benefiting from your plan, they will be more likely to accept it. 

V.  Action Step

In this final step, you ask your audience to take action.  Do you want your employees to begin implementing their part of the plan beginning next week?  Are you asking investors for funds?  Be specific about what action you want your audience to take and when.  Your goal is to make whatever action you are seeking something the audience can do as soon after you present as possible.  If there is a small step they can complete immediately following your presentation you are more likely to get them to commit to longer-term actions.  For example, start a contest for employees that day or draw up a letter of intent for investors to sign on the spot. 

By understating the purpose of presenting your plan is to persuade your various audiences to act, by analyzing your audience to determine the relevant details, and finally organizing those details into a motivated sequence pattern, you ensure that your business plan presentation will be successful.   In the end, not only will you have promises and hopesFree Web Content, you’ll have commitment to your plan.