This is Part 3 of a 7 part series collectively titled, McKinsey Method for Fire Protection Solutions. As you read keep in mind that these systems and processes can be applied to fire protection organization and leadership, and to physical fire protection systems and components.
Read Part 2 - How to Analyze Fire Protection Problems
Even more challenging than creating a problem solution, is communicating that solution and having it accepted for implementation. The solution presentation has to be structured in such a way that it can be communicated clearly and concisely. The problem solution must be presented so that it is understood, and generates buy-in from necessary stakeholders and decision makers. Effective communication skills are key to this process.
Management consultants are the experts in communicating solutions and achieving buy-in. These skills are critical to their success. Studying and applying the strategies of the firms can enable fire service professionals to effectively communicate solutions to fire protection problems, or gain buy-in from community stakeholders for fire department initiatives.
To effectively present strategies that achieve buy-in, there are 6 steps that should be followed:
- Pre-wire the presentation.
- Know your audience.
- Outline and structure the presentation.
- Start with the conclusion.
- Make wise use of visual aids.
- Document sources.
Pre-wire the presentation. Management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co. coined the term pre-wiring. This is the process of taking your audience through the solutions before engaging in a formal presentation. Pre-wiring the audience will help to avoid any surprises or unknown factors. The problem solution and recommendations should be sent out to the key decision-makers and stakeholders. From the comments and feedback a firm foundations for a successful presentation can be established. This pre-wiring process allows the presenter to:
- Address major objections prior to the presentation
- Build consensus in support of the solution
- Understand audience mindset
- Gauge reality and feasibility of findings
Know your audience. Any presentation should be custom tailored for the individuals that buy-in must be achieved from. The more that can be known about the audience the greater the chances of success. It is important to know the background, preferences, and communication style of the audience.
Different personalities require different presentation methods. Does the audience prefer formal communication and presentations, or is a more informal approach acceptable? Is a large presentation in a boardroom required, or is a more intimate discussion most appropriate? Will the audience react better to a text based presentation, or an audio visual show? Is a lecture based, question and answer, or hands-on format the best option?
Outline and structure the presentation. Any presentation should be structured in logical, clear, and easy-to-follow steps. The problem-solving framework used to reach the hypothesis (see the post, How to Analyze Fire Protection Problems) creates a natural outline for solution presentation. The exhibits used to establish the problem solutions can be compiled and plugged into place in the presentation.
Start with the conclusion. State the problem solution and benefits in the first slide. Each point of the solution and benefits will make up a section of the presentation. This method is referred to as inductive reasoning, and can be stated as, “We believe X because of A, B, and C.”
Make wise use of visual aids. There is seemingly no limitation to what can constitute a visual aid. These can include charts and graphs, scaled models, product samples, and the list could go on. When creating the presentation all options should be considered. Utilize the visual aid that will have the most impact on the decision-maker. When referencing charts or graphs in a presentation, only one message per chart should be conveyed, and the chart should be easy to read or have the pertinent information highlighted.
Document sources. Documenting all sources of data and information will provide direction for answering questions that may arise. The referenced documents can serve as an authority outside of just the presenter. Keeping track of the references and sources can prove useful for future projects.
Applying these six steps to any presentation will go a long way in ensuring successful buy-in. No matter what process or presentation methods are utilized there is never any substitute for preparation. The presenter must know the material and fully grasp the concept to be presented. Practicing the presentation multiple times will add to the natural flow of information. Individuals who are regularly tasked with presenting ideas and solutions should continuously work and study the craft of communication.