I was on a flight to New Orleans recently when I pulled my tray table down. Advertising on the small plastic slab is the latest way of trying to sell products to a captive audience but I found this particular message quite amusing. It was an ad that read ‘Sleep Your Best No Matter Where You Land’. The tray table also boasted that access to overcome my ‘unique sleep problem’ was free when I bought specially marked boxes of a certain product. Easy as that!
Sitting in seat 9D and sleep deprived from a week long head cold, I desperately wanted to address my unique sleep problem. But I was seated in an exit row so my seat did not recline. Even if I was enrolled, I doubted sleep would find me given my poker board straight position for nearly three hours. This was not a very good message for me or as I glanced around, anyone wide eyed open person in row 9.
How often do your messages match your audience? Do you ever work tirelessly on a pitch, talk or important presentation only to deliver it the same way to different groups? From this vantage point, the answer is likely yes. Time and time again, we work with individuals and teams who have great messages but fail to consider the listener which robs them of the results they’re after.
Let’s say you’re giving a series of talks about a new exciting therapy. You tell senior management about market share, competition, price, time lines and financial projections. But that same talk to patients, office staff, plant managers or insurers might miss the mark as their needs and concerns are different. I’ve heard the objections and understand your challenges:
- Management wants it done this way
- Lawyers have approved our slides and we can’t change anything
- We don’t have enough time to develop multiple presentations
Maybe you do if you think about it differently. Even if you are forced to present the same talk to various audiences, that’s no excuse for not tailoring your message to their concerns. Consider this:
- What examples can you share to help them understand how your strategy will benefit them?
- Is there a quick story you can tell to drive your point home?
- If the projector crashed and they couldn’t see your slides, how would you explain it?
You are probably more equipped to manage your message than you realize. You do it every day without over thinking it. When you struggle to get a child to pick up her toys, you may dangle a promise of an outing or playing a game to hasten the chore. When you want your dog to sit, roll over or shake paws, you might entice him with a treat. How can you entice your listener so you achieve the results you’re after?
When we personalize information with anecdotes, example and quick vignettes, we make our message more relevant to them. It helps them understand how they can apply the information we’re sharing.
For example, I recently listened to a medical director deliver a presentation outlining a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists in Massachusetts. The numbers on his slides were important but the message was not that compelling until he drove it home with a story about a woman in labor who drove 35 miles by herself in a blizzard to deliver her baby at the hospital because there were no specialists nearby. It’s doubtful his audience will recall the numbers on the slides, but they will most certainly remember that story.
As I glared back at my tray table the same message still stared my sleep deprived self in the face. ‘Sleep Your Best No Matter Where You Land’. Well, maybe when we land, I would finally get some sleep elsewhere because it certainly wasn’t happening in this seat on this plane. What message are you sending?