1. Where, who, what and why?
The first thing you do is roughly estimate the how and why of the presentation. These questions seem so easy to answer that most people just skip them and open PowerPoint right away. Don't do it! It is often not at all clear what the purpose of a presentation is.
What is expected of you? Is it to inspire, convince or inform? About what? Who is the presentation intended for? What is the level of the audience and their background knowledge about the presentation? Where and when is the presentation? Do you have enough time to prepare? Firmly refuse if you have too little time to prepare and estimate this time generously. For a half-hour presentation, allow at least two weeks. You will not use all this time, but you will certainly need those days.
What is the location like? Are there several speakers and what are they talking about? Always offer to be the first or last speaker; the audience is fresher at the first lecture and the last words heard will also sink in. If you have to speak after lunch, take this into account. The audience will be more tired than in the morning.
Why is a presentation the best form for this purpose? Why are you the best presenter for this presentation? These two questions are very important. Merely conveying information is never a sufficient reason to hold a presentation. The audience can also read an article, a memo or a book on the subject. In a presentation, more happens. It is a moment of contact between you and the audience. The subject gets a face: yours. This can be a great advantage. Why you? What is your involvement with the subject?
Three examples of presentations, their goals and presenters.
Michel, human resource manager at a large company. He was asked to give a presentation on a new personnel policy regarding an upcoming merger. The buzz among staff was about possible forced redundancies. This is not the case, but there will be a change in vision on the company culture and a number of new rules of conduct.
Goal: Inform the personnel about the changes concerning the upcoming merger (no dismissals, but a different vision) and convince the personnel that the changes are for the better.
Is the public waiting for this? Yes, it concerns their future.
Why Michel: He is the man of human resources, the staff knows this and knows him. He is known to be a decent guy with heart for his people. He is the right person.
Why a presentation? A presentation is better than a memo for this topic. The staff are directly addressed and feel involved in the subject. Michel can immediately see the reactions and the atmosphere, any misunderstandings can be immediately corrected and any negative reactions can be immediately answered.
Bas, IT process developer in a medium-sized company. Asked to present a newly developed application to the management team and the sales department of his company.
Goal: Inform the management team and the sales people about the operation and possibilities of the new application. To be proud of the development department.
Is the public waiting for this? Yes, for the sales people it is necessary that they know something about the products and for the management team it is just as necessary that they know what is happening in their company.
Why Bas: Bas is the best developer. He's a super nerd, never seems to leave the house and can be recognised by the cup of coffee he's always after. He is the right person to be, because he is the heart of the development department.
Why a presentation? A presentation is better than a written article for this topic. The audience does not have the same background and will not read something technical voluntarily. Seeing the developer in person will also contribute to the feeling of involvement.
Carlijn, independent film maker. Together with a few other people, she came up with a project for a new film. She was chosen to give a presentation to potential financiers.
Goal: Convince the financiers that this film is worth investing in.
Is the audience waiting for this? Yes, but conditionally. They first have to be convinced that it really is a good investment.
Why Carlijn: She is the driving force behind the project. It is her passion. She is the right person.
Why a presentation? A promotional leaflet will never be able to convey the message in such a way that you can see eye to eye with one of the initiators. There is an opportunity to respond directly to questions from the backers and possibly to do business immediately.
Assignments: Where, who, what and why
For these assignments you need blank cards or sheets of paper. (Do not use the computer.) Take your time to do the assignments and write things down if you think of more later.
- Write down the word Goal on one paper. Write on it what the aim of your presentation is. What do you want to achieve? Is it informative, argumentative or inspiring? What do you want the audience to remember? If necessary, break the goal down into sub-goals like Michel should do: what are the most important things the staff should know afterwards. On the same paper below, note the advantages of a presentation over a written memo or article for this purpose.
- Write down the word Public on 1 paper. What do they expect and who are they? Write down everything you know about the audience. Size of the group, background knowledge, mood, expectations. For Carlijn, the audience will be small with a lot of knowledge and a wait-and-see attitude. They expect to be inspired. With Bas, it will be a larger audience with little knowledge and they expect to leave the presentation with more knowledge.
- Write down the word Circumstances on one paper. Write down everything you know about the circumstances of the presentation. Where is it? How long does it last? When is it? What kind of room is it? What audio-visual aids are there? What happens after the presentation? (e.g. drinks)
- Write down your own name on one paper. Write down your personal involvement in the purpose of the presentation. Why have you been asked? What is your contribution to the presentation? What is your passion?
- When you have written out the above tasks, write down in one sentence on a separate card what the aim of the presentation is: the target sentence.