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Lean Forward and Lean Backwards Presentations

There are two types of presentations, and they are very different. Because your audience has different expectations, choosing the wrong presentation type may cause you to fail in achieving your outcome, whether that be to inform, inspire, or compel action.

Lean Backward Presentations

A lot of the advice given to presenters isn’t good advice for every situation, especially sales situations. You are not giving a “Ted Talk” when you are presenting in a board room. That said, you may be giving a “Lean Backward” presentation.

Your audience may expect and want you to present. They may want you to provide them with information, tell your story, and provide ideas about what your solution might look like. Even if there is a C-Level executive in the room, their expectation may be that you are briefing them, and they expect to lean backwards, and ask their questions at the end of your presentation.

Lean Forward Presentations

Some presentations are a dialogue. It doesn’t matter whether or not you prepared a slide deck, meticulously laid out your case, and that your intention is to drive through the deck, logically laying out your arguments. If your prospective client, your audience, is expecting a lean forward presentation, you are going to engage in a dialogue.

In a “Lean Forward” presentation, your audience has questions and ideas they want to share with you. You may prompt those questions by sharing ideas and information with your client, but their primary outcome is to get answers to their questions. There are some C-Level executives who have no interest in leaning backwards to watch you present. They simply need answers, and you need to provide them.

Close The Laptop

I once had a meeting with a client and I brought a slide deck that had incredible graphics and would answer any question he might ask. When I sat down he said, “Don’t open your laptop. I have a list of questions I need you to answer.” Sitting in front of him was a yellow legal pad with about 18 questions written on the first page.

All of the questions would’ve been answered had I used the slide deck, but that wasn’t the presentation my audience needed. I closed the laptop, and  began to answer his questions one by one. He would’ve enjoyed the graphics in the presentation that I might have shown him and that would have supported our conversation. But he wanted a “Lean Forward” presentation. And that’s what he got. And I won his business.

  • How do you prepare to give the presentation your audience wants, needs, and expects from you?
  • How do you prepare to deliver a “Lean Forward” presentation?

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