It’s the Monday morning team meeting…
Your boss breaks the news that you need to give a presentation on Friday morning about your current project.
Panic sets in; you hate doing presentations. You’ve never enjoyed presenting and you know that no one really wants to sit there and listen to you bang on about any of your projects.
After the initial shock wears off you resign yourself to doing a presentation. Friday’s not far away, so you need to get started on this presentation as soon as possible… So what do you do?
If you’re like most people, you head straight to PowerPoint and start filling out slides with bullet points.
Let me tell you upfront, no matter what kind of presentation you’ll need to deliver, starting with PowerPoint (or Keynote) is the biggest mistake you can make. For a truly effective, engaging presentation slide preparation should be one of the last things that you do.
So, what should you do first? What are the most important elements for an effective presentation?
Preparation is always the key to a good presentation; real preparation comes a long way before you ever sit down at your PC and start preparing slides.
The three most important elements of preparation are:
1. Knowing your audience
Presentation experts often talk about delivering audience-focused presentations. So how do you do that?… Understand what makes them tick. To deliver an audience-focused, engaging presentation you need to tailor your presentation to emphasize the benefits to your audience.
Make no mistake, no matter which department you work in, when you deliver a presentation you are a salesperson. It is your job to get the audience to accept the information you are sharing, buy the product you are presenting, use the new process you are introducing, etc.
To give you an example, I recently had to do a presentation about a new administration system that everyone will be required to use. This is a topic that I must approach very carefully, because it means more work for the audience. To deliver a truly engaging presentation, one where the audience will be happy with the information I am sharing, I need to focus on the benefits to the audience.
I need to put myself in the audience’s position and ask “What’s in it for me?”
So, what’s in it for the audience when we talk about a new system that will mean more work for them?
I know how frustrated the audience can be by a complicated weekly reporting process they have to go through. So focus on that. Focus on how much easier their working lives will be once they can press a button and have all the reports they need to make a usually difficult weekly reporting process a breeze. Sure, it’s more work for them upfront, but they will accept that if you tell them about the long-term benefits of easy reporting.
2. Knowing your topic
Don’t you hate being in a presentation where the presenter looks at the screen the whole time and reads the slides to you? If you’re anything like me those “presenters” leave you thinking, “Why not email the slides to me and I can read them myself?”
Generally, people who stand reading their slides, rather than making eye contact with the audience, are those that either don’t know their topic well enough or haven’t done any practice beforehand.
To deliver an excellent presentation it is essential that you know your topic inside out. If you know your topic well, you can deliver a presentation with impact because you’re not reliant on remembering what you rehearsed last night. If you know your topic inside-out you can just speak about it.
Knowing your topic leads to point number three…
3. Knowing what you want the audience to do
Knowing your topic is important. Even more important is knowing what you need the audience to do or to take away from your presentation. Before you do any preparation ask yourself “What is my goal?” “What do I want to achieve?” If you know this before your presentation starts you can structure what you say to lead the audience in this direction.
And that’s it!
You should follow these three steps before you even think about opening PowerPoint or Keynote:
- Know you audience
- Know your topic
- Know what you want the audience to do
Get these three steps right and you have built a strong foundation for the rest of your presentation.