Remember that time, not so very long ago, that you got fidgety, started doodling, or completely drifted away during a presentation someone else was making? And you kind of felt guilty because the colleague sitting next to you was attentive and taking great notes? I've got good news for you: it might not have been your fault. You weren't necessarily disinterested in the material, and you weren't trying to be rude by any means. If the presentation or presenter did not appeal to your thinking and behavioral preferences, your brain might have simply checked out.

When the tables are turned and you are the presenter, the pressure is on you to deliver. You'll need to present in a way that satisfies everyone's needs at some point or another. The best presenters do it consistently, and it's easier than you think.

Sure, presenting to a group of scientists you know to be highly analytical will require a different delivery of the same information you presented to a highly conceptual group at an ad agency the day before. But it is generally safe to assume that when you are presenting to colleagues at work, or at a seminar, that each of the four thinking attributes will be represented in your audience. Cater to them all, and you're on your way to a perfect presentation.

Analytical

An analytical thinker is looking for value in your presentation. They want to know your credentials and that their time will be well spent listening to you. They're likely to be skeptical until you support your point with data. If they're on the more talkative end of the expressiveness spectrum and the driving end of the assertiveness spectrum, don't be surprised if they ask lots of questions. If you don't have answers, make a point to get back to them as soon as you can with the correct information. If you're redundant or go off on unrelated tangents, the analytical thinkers might check out.

Structural

Structural thinkers want for you to begin and end on time, cover the material you promised to cover, and hear plenty of details on the way from a clear Point A to a clear Point B. Be careful of jumping around from one topic to another without explaining why you made the transition- this is especially important for those who are on the firm and focused end of the Flexibility spectrum. At the end of your tangent, don't forget to come back to your original point. Structural thinkers appreciate closure; agendas, slide printouts, and bullet points were invented for this purpose! Be sure to have lots of practical examples and include implementation steps or an action plan. Structural thinkers will want to know how to apply this information.

Social

Those with a social thinking preference are more likely to learn and engage through stories, parables, and vignettes, just like the analytical thinkers do through facts and data. Make sure to work those into your presentation, and be ok with your audience sharing their own stories as they relate to the topic- it's how they connect the dots. But be careful of being the presenter who shares too many stories or personal facts, the structural and analytical types will wonder why it's relevant and taking up too much time from the agenda. You can play to the social thinkers just as well by simply sharing your name, making eye contact, and working in a few choice testimonials into your presentation.

Conceptual

I firmly believe that it's best to begin a presentation with an activity to capture the attention of those highly conceptual audience members. Quotes are great for this, as are colorful and thought provoking photographs or other works of art. You'll soon get started with the content the analytical and structured thinkers are looking for, but you'll lose your conceptuals for good if you don't acknowledge them at the outset and time to time throughout.

One more important point for consideration here- behaviors. In the same way that people have a preference for a certain type of thinking, they also have one for behaving. Not everyone will want to be called on in the middle of the presentation, while others are just dying to share a fact or story. Some people will dread a group activity, especially if they're required to stand up and present. Be sure to honor all types of behaviors and explain the why behind each activity.

Remember, you are in the driver's seat. The content you are presenting is relevant to everyone in the room. You have an audience for a good reason, and you want to impart useful information. The goal is to package that information and deliver it in a way that can be fully absorbed by everyone. Your audience will appreciate it.

Published on: Apr 28, 2015