How to present to a mixed audience with engineers, marketing people and an art designer

22 March 2017
door Regina Coeli

One of the key issues to bear in mind if you want to convey information successfully is that different people interpret information in different ways. Some people like to have an overview of information; the bigger picture. Others prefer more detailed information. Some people understand concepts by visualizing them. Others need more concrete or practical examples. Some people have a scientific mindset and need to hear about the advantages and the disadvantages; others need to understand the links and the connections between the chunks of information. 

Here are some phrases and techniques you could use to present to a mixed group of people.

Phrases for ‘big picture’ people

1. Point out what the essence of the issue is by saying:

  • Essentially, …
  • The essence of the issue is …
  • The crux of the matter is …
  • The bigger picture is …
  • Isn’t the issue about ? .. Put the issue in a question form

2. Paraphrase your words by giving at least two synonyms or by saying …

  • In other words, this means that …
  • To paraphrase, what I’ve just said …
  • To put it simply, …

Phrases for ‘detail-orientated’ people

Go into detail by saying:

  • Let’s have a look at this in more detail …
  • What are the further consequences of this …

Phrases for ‘visual’ people

Use an analogy by saying:

  • It is just like …
  • Let me draw a picture for you …

Phrases for scientific or structural thinkers

1. Point out the advantages and disadvantages by saying:

  • If you do this/ consider this, then you can …
  • If you don’t understand this/ don’t do this, then you can never …
  • On the one hand, … On the other hand …

2. Point out correlations or links by saying:

  • If A happens, then B will happen, which will lead to C happening …

Phrases giving (concrete) examples

  • Let me demonstrate the point …
  • Let me give you some examples …

Phrases for practical people

Explain your point using a practical and concrete example by saying:

  • In practice this means that …
 

The following extract from a presentation highlights how you can use these phrases to address a mixed audience.

A presentation on style and tone

Good morning, everyone. My name is Maya. Today, I’m going to talk about style and tone and its importance in the English language. Before I start, I would like to give a demonstration. Could I have a volunteer, please? This is Kay and today is her lucky day. I’d like to give her two presents. 

The presenter gives Kay a beautifully wrapped present. Then she gives Kay a pen.

Kay, would you like to open the present, please? Kay opens the present and finds a pen inside.

Audience, which do you think she preferred? The present with the pen inside or the pen itself? Even though the content was the same, I’m sure many of you would agree that she preferred the beautifully wrapped present.

Similarly, style and tone is essentially about how you ‘wrap’ your message. In other words, it’s how direct or indirect you are. To put it simply, it’s just like giving someone a present. As the demonstration showed, wouldn’t you prefer to get a present which is nicely wrapped up than as it is rather than the bare content? Wouldn’t your message, especially a negative one, be better received if you wrapped it up nicely?

The principle behind adapting your style and tone is that you take the receiver of the message into account, not simply the content. In other words, you are focusing on the process and the relationship rather than achieving goals. Let’s look at this concept in more detail in the following example: You want to give some negative feedback to your colleague regarding some work he has done. You could say, extremely directly, “That’s awful” which would probably elicit a defensive response from your colleague. He would probably feel hurt and unhappy and be unwilling to continue the conversation. Alternatively, you could wrap up your message by saying, “Well, that’s an interesting piece of work you’ve done. However, maybe the following points could be improved if you… .” If you are able to vary your style and tone, this means that you can be more nuanced in getting your message across. Moreover, if you can adapt your message to your receiver, you are more likely keep the listener’s attention and to achieve your goal whether it’s to change their behaviour or to communicate negative information without damaging the relationship. If you don’t do this, your language comes across as direct and aggressive. It may make you sound very authoritative and directive. Consequently, the receiver may stop listening. You have, in effect, shut down the communication channel.

In practice, style and tone may require you to consider the amount of ‘wrapping’ your message needs to suit the situation. If you asked a friend to borrow a pen, it would be appropriate to say “Can I borrow your pen?” In this case, you are able to be fairly direct because you are asking a friend and because borrowing a pen is a normal request. However, if you asked the same friend to borrow their brand new Porsche, it would be far more appropriate to say “Peter, as you know, I’m getting married next year, and I was just wondering if I could possibly borrow your Porsche to drive to the Registry Office?” Despite being friends, the situation and the request are abnormal ones. Therefore, you would choose to wrap your message creating a style and tone that is indirect and highly nuanced and which is more likely to lead to a positive response from your friend.

To conclude, I would like to leave you with the picture of a delighted young child playing with the wrapping paper and the box his expensive toy came in. We shouldn’t forget that, sometimes, the box and the wrapping paper matters just as much as the content.

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