If public speaking is stressful for most of us there are however some presentations where the stakes are clearly higher than others. Whether it’s recommendations, a pitch session or more generally any sort of presentation with the aim of selling an idea, the audience has real life or death power on the financing or implementation of an idea.
This power differential between the audience and the speaker is always difficult to manage. On one hand, our future or success of our mission depends on the audience. On the other hand, we know it is dangerous to let the audience feel that we depend entirely on it. After hearing numerous pitch sessions, Dr. Kimberly Elsbach highlighted three particularly effective strategies to manage this power differential.
1- Balance the differential. This strategy considers that if the audience has the power to finance a project, the speaker actually has the power to implement it and make it a success. The exercise of the presentation is therefore a much more balanced exchange where the speaker is a leader bringing a solution. This attitude requires a lot of confidence and experience, both technical and managerial.
2- Reverse the differential. This strategy minimizes the audience’s power by bringing forth an asset it doesn’t have: “to create.” On this terrain, the audience knows that it is not competent and that it needs to rely on the talent and expertise of a trustworthy person. Artists, researchers, or more generally those who excel in a particular area, have the opportunity to position themselves as a necessary resource.
3- Use this differential. When one has neither the experience nor the expertise, there is one last strategy that consists of enhancing the power of the audience to make it want to do something good alongside its interests, This shift in values permits, for example, to give a chance to a young person starting out, or to place a project with a strong collective dimension. This positioning, if it allows compensating for a lack of experience, requires affirming a strong personality and unfailing commitment.