At its best, a formal presentation is a useful communications tool in the business world. At its worst, it’s a key time to learn embarrassing facts about your coworkers, namely, who snores when they sleep. A wrongly-seated presentation can be damaging to the communications process if you do not have credibility with your audience, or at least knowledge of them. Without sufficient information about the interests of the audience, a powerpoint presentation often says “this is the information I want you to hear” instead of “this is the information you need”. If you’re off-base on what they want, you’ve wasted your presentation and damaged your credibility as well.
Before going for a formal presentation, work on relationships first. Try to meet and know, or at least know about, all of the key players that you are presenting to. Don’t forget the ‘secondary’ players either. It is very seldom that anyone on the client side is invited to a presentation by accident. Usually, these folks are trusted advisors. Being armed with some knowledge of these people will help you build a better presentation.
If you cannot manage to meet and start a relationship of credibility with the audience beforehand, try to find someone with whom you have credibility who also has a relationship with the audience and ask that person to lead the meeting. Their introduction and testimonial will help to establish some level of credibility for you. If the audience trusts your meeting leader, and she establishes that she trusts you, then in turn you have gained an opportunity to be trusted as well. It’s just like meeting a new circle of friends when you go to a party with a friend- if you’re good enough for their friend who brought you, then you have a foot in the door.
Some of this information here is elementary, but nevertheless it’s important and should never be forgotten. Credibility is easy to build if you know how, but it is also amazingly easy to destroy, and once destroyed, nearly impossible to rebuild.