Do You Remember Perry Mason?

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Ask anyone over 50 or someone you enjoys classic television from the 50’s or those pulp novels from the days of Noir, and you will see real courtroom drama. Most of us in the business world would like to be able to present air-tight deliveries like Perry Mason when presenting online.

When it comes to presenting complicated, technical information to other departmental team members in easy-to-understand terms, it can be one of the most frustrating, challenging aspects for project managers and leaders.

Yet, in over 20 years of teaching communication skills, I’ve never found a better model of effectively (and successfully) presenting than the TV show, Perry Mason, specifically the second half…when you see how to present like an expert attorney.

This classic television show always followed the same format: the first half of each episode A wide array of things could and do happen. Ultimately, there is an arrest. During the second half of the show, (the trial of said suspect), evidence is presented differently by the prosecution, including the district attorney. Starting with a premise that the suspect is guilty, the district attorney presents the evidence to back up the prosecution’s theory. And then Perry takes over and brilliantly shifts everything to the point where the REAL culprit cannot stand the pressure and blurts out: “YES! I did it! I hated that person and I had no recourse but to do the dastardly deed!”

And the entire courtroom (and by extension, the TV audience) were on the edge of their seats!

So, what’s the relevancy here in terms of presenting to your co-workers, especially when working remotely?

When people research, analyze and reach conclusions, they generally follow the evidence. As with detectives, sometimes it’s relevant, sometimes it’s not (and you need to separate the wheat from the chaff), but it eventually leads to the conclusion — your recommendation or call to action. The problem is that audiences don’t have the patience or expertise to take that journey with you.

This can create problems for you when it comes to your audience, such as:

Often bored with too much detail, what’s the right amount of data to share with the audience?

They often get hung up on irrelevant data points or information, leading to stress and frustration (on both sides).

They don’t share your level of expertise, and often get overwhelmed, meaning they either tune out or make poor decisions (in other words, different than what you are presenting and suggesting).

So, unless you are presenting to people who share your level of knowledge or work the way you do, this is often an ineffective way to make your case.

Instead, present like an expert attorney:

Start with your recommendation or main point. The longer the audience asks themselves, “Where’s she going with this?”, the more likely they are to tune out.

Present only the strongest evidence that will appeal to your “jury”, a.k.a., the decision-makers. You always have time to answer questions or offer further evidence if they need it, but you don’t want to confuse them or offer room for objections that can derail your efforts.

The sooner you get to the point, the more it’s appreciated (especially by senior executives), generating more goodwill for you, the presenter.

While this applies to all presentations when people are forced to pay attention (or at leasts act like they are), it’s even more critical when presenting online. It doesn’t take much to send people scurrying to their email inbox or favorite app to pass the time (Candy Crush, anyone?).

You want to get their attention early, give them what they need, and finally, let everyone (including you) get back to business.

So, even though you may reach your conclusions like a detective, present them like a district attorney. Trust me, you’ll see your “conviction rate” (the number of successful presentations) increase substantially.

The people rest, your honor.

Did you know that Blue Sand Group was founded and run by a trial attorney? No, not as movie star handsome as Raymond Burr, but BSG’s fellow is fairly sharp looking and fairly sharp in his style and business acumen. Call BSG today for your future success!

To Your Success…

Scott Ringwelski

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