Building Relationships Through Presentations
Updated: Jul 29
Presentations to stakeholder groups are a common way for organizations to share information and provide updates. Many roles in the non-profit sector require staff who can deliver engaging presentations that motivate and educate stakeholders (e.g. donors, volunteers, partners, board members, even colleagues!). Presentation skills are also critical for public and private sector employees in sales, leadership, and communications roles.
I like to use presentations as an opportunity to build or deepen stakeholder relationships. A few weeks ago, I prepared a short presentation on how to do this as part of a job interview process. Although I've since accepted another role, I'm here to share some of the key ideas through this blog!
I approach presentations in three stages:
1) Preparation- you need to take time to set yourself up for success
2) Presentation- the actual presentation itself
3) Stewardship- the follow-up conversations and continuous relationship-building
Let's dive in a bit deeper into each stage...
Tip #1: Customize the content for that specific audience
No one wants to feel like they are hearing something generic. It is important to customize each presentation as much as possible so the audience knows it was created specifically for them. This shows care and goes a long way in building a relationship.
Start by reviewing available data on the audience. If you have notes stored on a CRM, review that information. Check websites, LinkedIn pages, and other social media. Really understand what the stakeholders' priorities and goals are, and look for opportunities to create linkages in the presentation content.
I also recommend incorporating relevant visuals and examples in the presentation. I recently presented on volunteer engagement for grassroots organizations to a professional group of women of colour. I used free images from blackillustrations.com and pexels.com that reflected the audience members' lives. This was noticed and appreciated because women of colour don't often see themselves reflected in professional presentations; my planning added a caring touch to the experience. Using relevant examples is another way to build a more meaningful relationship. If you are presenting to seniors, give an example of how your organization has successfully engaged seniors. If you are presenting to advocates, talk about your organization's dedication to working with the government to create change.
Tip #2: Communicate with the organizer
The person who has invited you to present to their group is the gatekeeper to your relationship with that group. It is so important to build a strong rapport with this presentation organizer and to show gratitude at every interaction. Prepare yourself to ask the right questions and to anticipate the organizer's questions as well.
Some questions that are always important to ask are around accessibility (e.g. do any audience members require interpretation or closed captioning?), and what is planned for before or after your presentation (e.g. will the CEO make a big announcement that may distract the audience?). Being prepared enables you to walk into the room or log into the call with confidence. Anticipating the organizer's questions or concerns will also make the process a lot smoother. Finally, take cues from your conversations with the organizer to anticipate questions the audience may have during the presentation. They are the most reliable source of information for you to further customize content.
Tip #1: Interact using inquiry
In grad school, I took quite a few courses from the Faculty of Education, where I learned that meaningful learning happens when a teacher acts less like a "sage on the stage" and more like a "guide on the side". Although you may be there to present, the conversation must go both ways if you want an engaged audience!
Use live polling tools like Mentimeter to get a pulse on the audience's goals and priorities. Then focus your presentation on things that matter most to the audience to increase engagement and build trust.
Additionally, make time and space during the presentation for questions. This usually happens at the end of each presentation, but you can also slot in opportunities for questions after introducing particularly challenging or controversial topics. It's okay if you don't have all the answers during your presentation; admit to it and make promises to follow up.
Tip #2: Engage through storytelling
Storytelling is a powerful teaching tool that connects the audience to ideas emotionally and brings data to life. If you are presenting technical information to a lay audience, storytelling is especially important. Stories help people relate, which builds a stronger relationship with your mission and brand too!
Bonus tip: Shoutout the organizer
One connection you and the audience have in common is the presentation organizer. Take a minute to thank them for inviting you and for the work they have put in. It is a classy move that links you to the audience even further.
Tip #1: Manage new data
Stewardship is perhaps the most important stage of the presentation cycle. Doing the presentation is only the beginning; continuously developing the relationship with the stakeholders is what will drive your organization forward!
During the presentation, you may collect new data about the audience through the questions they asked and their answers to the live polling. It is important to document this information (e.g. in a CRM), especially if multiple colleagues will be interacting with this stakeholder group. Consistent messaging and a solid stewardship strategy from your organization is key to building a stronger relationship.
Other new data you will collect is information on your own performance. It is important to self-reflect after every presentation (even briefly) to identify opportunities for improvement. During your reflection, you may recognize that you need support from your manager or more information from a colleague. You may also identify opportunities to improve processes embedded in your team's work. Even if you are busy, take five minutes to replay the experience in your head: where did you excel? what could you have said differently? There's no need to be hard on yourself- just take the lessons learned and move forward.
Tip #2: Deliver on promises
This one is simple, if you said you would get back to someone on a question- make sure you do it (ideally within two business days)! If you need to redirect to a colleague, send an introductory email with the question, don't just forward a message without a context. The formal introduction will again strengthen the stakeholder's trust with your organization, enhancing their experience even further.
Tip #3: Anticipate future needs
Take the lessons you learn and apply it to strategizing for presentations and communications to similar audiences. Use the information you have gathered to continue the dialogue. For example, if you presented to a group of committed volunteers on the organization's social media campaign, and the audience expressed interest in Instagram support, you may want to send a targeted email to this group with five top Instagram tips from your Communications Manager.
A wise woman once told me "relationships are like flossing, you need to keep doing it to see results". Don't see a presentation, or a donation, or a new member, or a six-month volunteer commitment, as the end game. To maintain relationships, you need to keep reaching out, asking questions, and sharing dialogue.
In summary, here are my five tips to take away for increasing connection and trust to build relationships through presentations:
1) Show genuine gratitude in every interaction
2) Use data to demonstrate care with customization
3) Connect through inquiry and storytelling
4) Demonstrate integrity by keeping promises
5) The goal is ongoing dialogue and stewardship
What are your top tips for presentations and building relationships? I'd love to hear from you!