Lessons when communicating to senior managers: Find common ground

Overcoming objections and challenges is essential to gaining acceptance for your proposal. While many presenters know their audiences well, they miss out on possibilities to connect their message with their manager’s interests. We call this “Create your Connection”, step 4 in the 8 step journey of¬† The One Minute Presenter.

Finding common ground is the landing pad for your presentation’s message. Making it clear to the audience will improve your chances in gaining agreement.

Find common ground. This is your preparation and research part. First think about the outcome for your presentation. How receptive will your manager be to your conclusion? Find areas that they will buy-into most easily. Connect your presentation flow and message to the things that you know your manager is motivated by


Your manager firmly believes in capturing market share through exceptional high-touch client engagement. Your proposal includes a section that proposes training all client-facing staff to resolve problems within 24-hours.

Your manager always wants to see the detailed numbers behind any major decision. Although you do not want to go into the spreadsheets in your short presentation, you print our and include the financial modelling as a handout.

Be explicit in showing the audience  your common ground. Be clear and lead the audience through the presentation. Show your manager that you know what he likes to hear. This is all part of connecting with your manager. When you see the nods, you know you have made that connection. A good presenter keeps making small connections through-out their presentation.


“A major risk in fast expansion is lowering customer service consistency. We don’t want that to happen. In fact, we can’t let it happen. So here is our solution to deliver consistently high customer touches while we are aggressively growing into new markets”

“I know that you are interested in the financial modelling behind these projections. Although, in the short time we have available in this meeting, I don’t have time to get into the details, I have included a handout with our spreadsheet calculations and would be happy to share a soft copy with you after the meeting.”

Use common ground to overcome objections. Being challenged by a senior manager is a fact of life. Be ready for these challenges by starting your answer in a position that you can both agree on. This helps you get agreement in the starting position and then state your case in a logical fashion from there. Although this will not guarantee that your manager will always agree with your point-of-view, it does improve the chance of buy-in as it eliminates all confusion in the rationale behind your proposal.


Manager: “Why are you predicting a 12% increase when we have calculations of a 15% gain over the same time period.

Your answer: “As we confirmed earlier, customer retention is our most important priority. Our premium clients require a very hands-on service so rather than risk burning them as we expand too rapidly into new areas, we are recommending a slightly more conservative projection that will allow us time to re-train client facing staff while gaining exposure to attractive opportunities in second tier cities.”

Finding, sharing and returning to common ground is a great way to stay connected and aligned to the motivations, values and concerns of your senior manager.

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