Most of us think of ourselves as trustworthy. But without realizing it, many of us act as if we are not.

Suppose Bill wants to borrow his neighbour's power drill for a week. He gets on the phone. And while the number is ringing he thinks: it will be rude to ask for the drill right away. So the conversation goes like this.

Tino: Hello.
Bill: Gidday Tino, it's Bill from next door. How was the trip?
Tino: Hi Bill. Not bad. Bit of diving, bit of fishing, bit of lying about the catch.
Bill: Great. And how did Moana go with that sore ankle? That would have knocked her holiday back a bit.
Tino: No, she came right mighty quick. She wasn't going to miss out on anything.
(...etc, until Bill gets to his real agenda...)
Bill: Oh, I've got a favour to ask. I was wondering if I could borrow your power drill for a week?

Now, what does Tino think? So that's what Bill was really after! He wasn't interested in my trip... he was just trying to butter me up! Bill loses credibility and trust even though he was just trying to be polite.

The easy way

So, it's wrong to get to your agenda right away, and its wrong to keep it until later? So we can't win? Yes we can, because there's a third choice.

Signal your real agenda.

No, it's not about getting to the point, it's pointing to the point. So easy to do.

Tino: Hello.
Bill: Gidday Tino, it's Bill from next door. I've called to ask a favour. But first, how was the trip?

It works with informal emails and meetings. It works particularly well when we want something from someone else.

How to signal your real agenda at the beginning

Ask yourself: what do I really want to achieve with this audience? Your real agenda is usually not the same as the title of your talk. It's how you want them to think, feel or act as a result of your presentation. Then in the introduction, start with:  I want to /show you that... /show you how... /demonstrate that... /convince you that...

Don't make the audience have to work out why you're really there.

You might think, for example, that your real agenda is: I want to talk about the new operating procedure. But how does it affect them? There may be a strong emotion involved. I want to show you how the new operating procedure will change your working conditions. That might be it. But watch out for even stronger emotions. I want to show you how the new operating procedure will affect your job security.

You see the challenge? Not the topic but what you want to achieve with the topic.

What if the audience doesn't care about my topic?

If they don't care, find a way to make them care by looking for the parts of your topic most relevent to them - then signal your agenda.

It takes courage because it puts you on the line. But look at the reward: getting to the point generates the feeling that you can be trusted.