In presenting sales information, it is important to consider the context of the audience. The managers and salespeople represent an internal audience while the customers and shareholders are considered external (Brinkley, Ch. 1). It is also a mix of both primary and secondary members who have the capacity to take immediate action, although that is not the primary purpose of this event. The audience’s position and overall relationship with the company will ultimately determine how they will perceive the information. Especially with sales report data, the shareholders will be much more involved in finding out whether their investment is going well. For the employees, they will focus on the company results as a translation of their performance within their respective division in the company. For the customers, it is important to consider what these results mean to them: higher/lower prices, better/worse service, changes/stability…etc. Finally, it is important to consider what cultural context them come from. This will help alleviate any issues that may arise from non-verbal tactics that may be employed.
In finding the right communication channel to use, it is important to first consider the purpose of the meeting and the limitations. In presenting sales data to a wide variety of people, an oral method is the only logical choice. Depending on the size of the group, either an auditorium or roomy meeting room is best. This gives people space and controls room temperature if the room is crowded. A larger setting would be beneficial because it would allow people to quietly exit to use the restroom without disturbing the presentation. While the messages should be delivered orally, a visual aid in the form of a presentation would be required. Since complex financial data should be delivered via electronic means, this presentation has to be condensed and then presented visually as well to retain as much clarity as possible.
The main goal of the meeting should be too both build goodwill and inform. It thus needs to “inform; build image and goodwill” with accuracy and clarity (Brinkley Ch. 1). As data manipulation offers the option of possibly skewing the data to make it seem more optimistic, the presence of shareholders should prompt me to focus on delivering clear, complete and correct information even if it is bad news. Such honesty and a plan of alternative action (if needed) will build a trustworthy relationship with the audience members. Moreover, the presentation of the data needs to “focus the audience’s attention on specific points” (Brinkley Ch. 2). Because there is so much data that needs to be presented, it is important to make it as clear as possible. For instance, while complex data is usually reserved for electronic means, in this case a visual aid with bottom line numbers will be enough.
In terms of presentation structure, following a strict plan will also be important in gaining positive responses. The presentation will begin by showing positive elements or data and building a common ground of success by every member of the organization. Any problems or issues should be packed into the middle of the presentation and delivered quickly, effectively and only once (Brinkley Ch. 2). These problems should be alleviated through a plan of action at the end. In doing so, the audience will not end the meeting with bad news or be upset; instead, they will feel as though the organization is committed to further success. Besides, the law of primacy and recency from psychology suggests that people tend to recall what is said at the start and end the best. Such a strategy would mitigate potentially upset audience members.
In terms of deliver, a very formal strategy should be utilized. Along with being clear and informative, the presence of external audience members means that all language should be objective, clear and non-biased. Positive wording will accompany this as well. Rather than pointing to failures or gaps in our organization, I will emphasize these weak points as immense opportunities for improvement. If the bad news is justified with reasons and accounted for clearly, the audience will more likely be receptive to understanding (Brinkley Ch. 3). This focus on goodwill and positive emphasis will also rely on a you-attitude. That is, rather than using phrasing from my perspective, the language will always be oriented towards the audience. This will show care and attention to their own attitudes and beliefs.
Because of the diverse nature of the audience, important considerations regarding context must be considered. For instance, while culture may not be a relevant factor, any members that are foreign should impact the overall tone of the presentation. Consequently, it is important to maintain a perspective of the whole organization from the employees to the owners. The sheer number of audience members will require me to generalize their values as much as possible and then deliver a message that will be acceptable for the whole group. While it would be preferred, it is a wasted effort to try and apply individual demographic or psychographic tactics because they vary so much with a group setting. Indeed, this context will ensure that “your message will be most effective if you think of the entire organizational context—and the larger context of shareholders, customers, and regulators” (Brinkley Ch. 1). While it is impossible to make everyone happy, gaining the approval of a majority is still attainable.
In evaluating the effectiveness of the presentation, there are some subtle cues to look for. For instance, non-verbal body language (if in a meeting room) will be evident. Within North American culture, if the crowd is leaning in with an open body position, I can expect that the audience is excited and optimistic about what is being presented (Brinkley Ch. 14). Any negative facial expressions or confused looks should be spotted immediately. In doing so, I can adapt my presentation, at least my language and posture, to make it more positive.
Also, solid planning and a basic appraisal of the presentation will be a good metric to see if the desired response will be met. For instance, I should be able to answer basic questions regarding the logic and structure of my presentation. The arguments and reasons brought forth should use data and statistics rather than emotion or other diversions (Brinkley Ch. 1). At all costs, any segments that resemble manipulation or dishonesty must be filtered out beforehand. In planning which segments may be difficult or negative and then subjecting them good planning will at least let me anticipate positive negative responses.
Finally, a follow up with a few members of the audience will be a great way to find out if the intended message was delivered. Any employee surveys or personal interviews with audience members afterwards will be a great indicator of success or failure. During the question and answer period, any issues or concerns about core points mentioned will indicate if the presentation was clear enough or if data was presented in an easy way. Monitoring and analyzing these questions will be vital in gauging if the presentation was successful.
Locker, K. (2008). Business and Administrative Communication, Eight Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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