Be a "Big-Picture" Presenter
Don't let the real issue get drowned in the data.
Sometimes we're so anxious to make a point, prove our knowledge, and sell the deal that we forget that vision, passion, and powerful anecdotes can win hearts and minds as well - or better!
Let me tell you about a meeting we had just the other night:
Our town planning commission was hearing a case about a developer who wanted to build ginormous condos - 14 of them - in the middle of a residential development. The homeowners were actively and vehemently against it and the developer was asking for variances and exceptions to building and zoning codes in ways that would break almost every single rule. Why? He'd admitted that, "Otherwise, I'll lose money."
Still, the plan was being considered.
The lawyer for the builder started on a list of adjustments and compromises (still breaking the codes but compromises) on 30-foot setbacks vs. 5 feet; a 6-foot privacy wall; a 100 square-foot amenity area; slanted roofs on 40 foot tall structures...and the list went on. They were breaking dozens of building codes but changing their original plans by giving in on the percent of damage they would do.
Next, two lawyers for the neighborhood residents took the mike and used the same data to make the opposite points, explaining that even though the developer had changed his original plans - he was still asking for variances that went against all the local rules. At that point in the meeting, it seemed that the lawyers would have to hash out the details to an agreement that would allow the developer to disrupt an entire neighborhood.
But then - something wonderful happened. It stopped being about the rules.
One by one, the neighbors stood up to speak. The first resident talked about how the developer would have to cut down dozens of trees (against the law), eliminating the cooling shade they provided and destroying the habitat for a family of owls that provided the soundtrack for their nights. Another long-time homeowner talked about the safety of her children with traffic already pouring down the street that would now having parking on both sides and school buses overcrowded with 3 and 4 kids to a seat. They talked about the 4-story apartments that would tower over the 2-story homes, destroying the look and feel of a suburban enclave, blocking the views for many, and invading the privacy of the nearest homes.
The balance had shifted. The discussion was no longer just about bending the rules by a few feet or how narrow the street could be. The issue was people. Real lives would be changed and not for the better they said.
Storytelling won the day by painting the big picture of people, homes and trees - not getting lost in the weeds.