Spend as much time describing the problem as you do outlining the solution.

I was thinking about why presentations fail today.  Why do so many great ideas fail at the presentation stage?  Business plan presentations, entrepreneur pitches, Sales presentations?  Why do they fail?
There are many reasons: failure to prepare (deliberate practice), failure to clarify what you want from the audience, failure to make the material relevant to the audience, failure to engage the audience, failure to structure your content for the audience, failure to close with a request to act.

These are obvious.

However, there is a simple flaw that I see in even the most prepared and clear presentations: a rush to describe the solution.

This is a difficult thing to overcome.  I see my version of the world clearly, and it is hard to imagine that another can’t see the problem in the same clear way that I see it.  They don’t.  They have their own challenges and ideas and dreams.

Spend as much time describing the problem as you do outlining the solution.

I fail here.  I assume quickly that the audience sees the world that I see…  and I rush into describing the better world that could exist.  I jump quickly to describing the solution.  But I see the audience frustrated.


I haven’t helped them see the world as I see it.  I haven’t helped them see what I am seeing.  I rushed into describing my dream before the audience understands where I am coming from.

Neil Rackham in SPIN Selling tells us that in big ticket sales (more than €100 or $100), your job is not to sell the person in front of you on the benefits of your solution…  your job is to train the person in front of you to explain (sell) your solution to other people in the company.  The most important aspect here is to help her explain the problem to her peers, bosses, advisors, board.

Spend as much time describing the problem as you do outlining the solution.


    1. The real challenge of changing audience’s minds is to take them on your own journey of discovery – you spent a lot of time facing the scale of the problem before seeing the solution. In sales, it is more effective to ask many implication questions – what if this continues as is? how much could failure cost? who would be responsible? what could be lost? than it is to explain the look and feel of the actual proposed solution.

      Might even be 90/10 prob/sol…

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