Fit Focus Flair

Motivating Geeks- a Lesson for us all


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I’ve been working in Barcelona again this week, with a global pharmaceutical company, and here’s a small, but significant lesson I learned from Xavi, an IT Director about finding the right ‘hook’ for a speech to his IT colleagues.

We were talking about understanding our audience before we start to create our message,- ‘Fit‘ as I label it. Because who they are, what they do, how they see the world, what they consider to be interesting important and motivating will differ.

Different from sector to sector, function to function, type to type and place to place.  And unless we really understand this fact, we’ll simply treat this audience as the same as the last ‘lot’ and fail to motivate, inspire, inform, instruct or whatever the hell it is we are trying to do.

“Assuming Makes an Ass…”

Treating every audience as the Americans is what Americans (sometimes unfairly!) are accused of.  They make assumptions about the people, their lifestyle, language, sensitivities, complexity, beliefs and approach that will work for them. Like this- The American marketing ‘guru’ who said that

‘Our goal is to be first choice of white goods in every kitchen in central and eastern Europe…’

He assumed that as it had worked as phrase in the US, why shouldn’t it work in Prague?

‘Have you ever been in a Polish kitchen? Asked one of the Poles in the audience. ‘No?  A kitchen’s a kitchen isn’t it?’ Replied Harry.
‘No’ replied the Pole.  I live with my husband and my parents in a 2-bedroom apartment in Warsaw.  We have no room for a dishwasher, refrigerator or anything in our kitchen, just a table… ‘

The 150 people in the hall, from Croatia, Hungary, Belarus, Lithuania and the other 40 places represented nodded and  applauded this point.  Harry had lost them and he didn’t get them back. Because he’d made an assumption that ‘over there’ was just like where he lived, and it almost never is.

Get Inside Your Audience’s Head

Back to Xavi (pronounced ‘Zhabi’ in Cataluna). He was writing a presentation to be made to his IT colleagues at their annual conference in 2 weeks time. Our group, there to help him,  was talking about finding the reason why they might accept the recommendations that he was making.

The proposal would mean  a fundamental change in their working lives.  These changes would mean stress, disruption, uncertainty and more work for them in the short term, and our think tank was wondering what might be the ‘benefit’ for them that would help them to see that the effort was worth putting in.

We entered that familiar game of ‘intellectual table tennis’.  Someone would suggest something that made sense to them as a benefit, Xavi would respond, knowing his audience.

  • Cost efficiency and profit for the business?- They’re not interested- too far removed.
  • Product quality?- Nope, they don’t care
  • Process improvement?- Nope
  • It’s the right thing to do?- Who says?
  • It’s interesting and everyone needs interesting work?- They’re just interested in code.

But then Xavi said- ‘They love code.  They love problem solving, they like new projects and hate fixing bugs in badly specified jobs. That’s it!’

And there it was.  The Reason why was simply-

‘If we do this thing, we’ll be able to do more of the things we know will make a difference, that we’ve wanted to do for years, but never had the time….’

He’d zeroed in on the essence of what makes his gifted, gorgeous geeks tick. And so,  for this very particular audience, that’s what he would focus on as the key to unlock the effort that he needs from them for his plans to succeed.

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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  1. Pingback: Three ways to add flair to any speech

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