Boardrooms are no longer dominated by suit-wearing, Mercedes-driving baby boomers. Instead, your meeting is just as likely to be run by a group of latte-sipping Generation Xers, with a dash of Generation Y software developers and a handful of baby boomer accountants sprinkled in.

It means that success depends on our ability to relate to a cross-section of demographics. Whether you're trying to pitch an idea, make a sale or present information, you need to connect with your audience. And when they range in age from 21 to 61, this can be a considerable challenge.
One of the biggest differences between generations is technology. Gen-Xers grew up with it. It's an integral part of how they do business. Baby boomers, on the other hand, were in business before PCs, e-mail and the Internet, and don't necessarily regard technology as the be-all and end-all of corporate strategy. So how do you marry these two disparate groups when you're trying to pitch a concept?
When you're trying to reach a generation that grew up on a diet of MTV, Nintendo and the Internet, keep your presentation fast and interesting. Presentation software packages are better than flip charts and markers because they're quick and allow you to easily incorporate important visual aids. But don't overdo it. If you add graphics and transition effects to every slide, they'll lose the effect and your delivery will become slow and awkward. Always keep your special effects practical and relevant to your message.

Stick to technology that facilitates productivity. For example, using a data conferencing application to hold a virtual meeting with a branch office to prepare a budget saves everyone time and money. Expensive air fares and hours wasted on the plane are eliminated, and you're actually working with a live document. To really impress your colleagues, you need to differentiate between technology that looks flashy and technology that actually works for you.

Evaluate the merits of different technologies before you employ them. Do you really need to introduce your presentation with a thirty-second Flash demo? If you're pitching a new Web site to a client, a Flash demo might clinch the deal. But if you're reporting third-quarter financials to executive management, it's probably overkill. Similarly, is video or data conferencing really necessary for your virtual meeting? If you're meeting a new team for the first time, video is a great icebreaker. If you've met your colleagues on a dozen previous occasions, data conferencing may be the way to go.

We all know that the face of the workplace is changing. Khakis and golf shirts are replacing suits as acceptable corporate attire. The 22-year-old in your next meeting is just as likely to be the CEO as he is to be the intern. But whether you're a techno-phobic baby boomer or a technology-obsessed Gen-Xer, the underlying principles of selling an idea are the same. Develop a concrete proposal, use your delivery to connect with the audience, and keep time and cost savings at the forefront of your pitch. As long as you use technology wisely to help you achieve these objectives, you'll be one step closer to bridging the generation gap.

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.


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