Understanding one thing above all will transform your presentations, be they formal or informal. It is this: a spoken presentation is a vehicle for influence; it is the opportunity to change what people do or how they think about something.
This is not the occasion to dump data. That is far better achieved by the written word, where your audience has the time to absorb it at their own pace. Remember, they hear a spoken presentation once only, and then it’s gone.
The opportunity to influence applies equally to a pitch, internal education session, client seminar or during partnership selection, indeed pretty much every time you open your mouth in a business context.
Follow this process and you won’t go far wrong:
- What do I want them to do or think differently about when I sit down?
- What do they need to hear from me in order to do it?
- Apply the ‘so what?’ or ‘who cares?’ question ruthlessly to everything you want to say. Discard anything that doesn’t pass muster. Remember that one of the most common speaker faults is telling what you know, rather than saying what you need to say for the audience to buy into your point.
- Limit your content to no more than five points, preferably fewer. The brain won’t retain any more. If the audience is interested in what you haven’t mentioned, they will ask questions. What you mustn’t do is to cover all the detail in the mistaken belief that the audience needs it or cares about it.
- Focus on the major issues, insights, opportunities, benefits etc. and relegate the detail to supporting notes.
- Illustrate frequently with examples and metaphors to bring it to life. Remember that human beings, irrespective of age and culture, love stories. They can really help make your point memorable.Apply the ‘so what?’ or ‘who cares?’ question ruthlessly to everything you want to say.