Anais Nin is quoted to say, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
So true. Not only does that quote strike a chord with me on so many personal levels, but it applies to business as well. Be honest, how many times have you heard a comment and taken it personally only to find out it had nothing to do with you? How many times has someone taken forever to return your text and all you could think was why they hated you when it turned out they were on the phone with their family?
I have lost count of the number of times I have been a part of a crucial conversation (on the giving AND receiving end), and after it was all said and done, I honestly could not tell you about the conversation other than the parts that applied to me. It took me way too long to realize that I needed to understand the other person’s role in a conversation before I could understand the conversation.
The quote applies to parenting as well. This morning I was working with my son on his reading lesson, and he could not figure out the word “with.” What in the heck?! After talking about the situation, the reality is that when he struggles with a word, he doesn’t see it as an opportunity to work together to learn, he sees it as something he is doing wrong. Which then, of course, I see it as a reflection of my inability to teach. If my reaction is to dig deeper into the logic of the English lesson, I completely miss an opportunity to support him emotionally on his path to learning how to read.
We see things as we are.
If you don’t understand the biases your audience has to you, your company, your message, your shirt, whatever it is, then you do not understand your audience. Not understanding your audience means you built your story deaf to the most critical person in the room.
It does not matter how excellent your presentation is, or how many impressive images you have, or how well you have rehearsed that script. If you don’t understand your audience first, the rest is luck. You might as well scratch a lottery ticket off before your meeting.
How do you overcome those biases?
1. Identify the active and sleeping bias. Ask the people around you what the audience is going to think even before you step into the room. Further, when you test the material, make sure there are not any sleeping bias, “oh yeah, we had a guy last year tell us the same thing.” or “the last CEO did that, and nobody liked that.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but it does indicate you need to frame the presentation appropriately
2. Build your story to both honor the biases and evolve past them
- The easiest way to do this is to figure out what set of beliefs have you experienced that got you to this decision. Can you lay that out for your audience? For example, have a bunch of parents share their testimonies about your new product rather than hearing it from you.
- Tell a parallel story that can re-anchor your audience. Use Kodak as an example of not seeing the forest through the trees. Use Amazon as an example of thinking differently to disrupt the status quo.
- Tell the alternative story. If we don’t do A, then we could do B, and we all know B is a terrible alternative.
3. Make sure your story is a series of small, simple questions that you know what the answer will be.
- Think of it like you are converting your grandmother from the flip phone to a smartphone. You don’t jump into Uber and those starry night apps right away, no, you show them FaceTime. Grandma - you can now see us anytime, anywhere. Just like making a phone call. Let gramps learn Uber once he has accepted emoji.
- You have to bring certainty to an uncertain situation, do that in small steps that everyone can understand and agree with.
It is not always easy to understand all of those biases, but the best way is to talk with audience members themselves or someone who may be wearing similar shoes before your presentation. Ask them what they would think and when in doubt, plan your presentation as a choose your adventure. Present it step by step and leave plenty of time for feedback all through the deck. If your presentation is wrong, make sure your audience know you honor them and their thoughts. That will never lead you astray.
Would you like more information on overcoming bias? Follow the links below.
Click here for our Presentation Stories episode
Click here for our Leadership Object Lesson episode
Click here for our Cheat Sheet
Here is to great stories,