Before you allow yourself to start planning a presentation you really need to define and decide the purpose of the presentation. To help you to do this you can use the mnemonic IMPACT.
- Information passing
- Memorability? The Message or me?
- Action generation
- Consultation/ Consensus building
To look at these in more detail:
* Information passing
If your purpose is to pass information you will want to include that information in your presentation, this may be in the form of slides, or in the form of your spoken content, or in the form of notes and handouts or a combination of these. You will need to ensure that you cover, or at the very least refer to, every single fact that you want the audience to know. You will want to consider whether to use a consistent methodology (ie a whole series of bar graphs) or a variety of methods (ie some bar graphs, some pie charts, some lists, some photos) depending on your audience. You will also need to consider the depth of detail and margin of accuracy, again depending on your audience (is “over 60%” appropriate or do you need to actually inform the audience that it is “61.674%”
* Memorability? The Message or Me?
If it is important that the audience remembers the detail of the message you might wish to include mnemonics, alliterations and repetitions to help the message to sink in. You might want to include pauses to allow reflection or use rhetorical questions and refer to kinaesthetic responses If you want the audience to specifically remember YOU as a person/representative you might want to make yourself appropriately memorable via your appearance or behaviour, you might wish to reinforce your name (or your organisation’s name) repeatedly.
If the objective is to pacify an irate group (say you are representing a developer at a public planning enquiry, or representing management in a meeting with the staff who are unhappy about downsizing) you will need to consider whether the room layout is reminiscent of a historic battlefield (two “sides” facing each other with the “big guns” in the middle and the supporters on the flanks), a patronising approach to the little people (management up on a dais, looking down at people literally), or a peacemaking/conciliatory discussion forum (a round-table!). As below you will need to fulfil each audience member’s WIIFM question You will also need to consider your language; for instance, management speak, jargon, acronyms and ‘blinding with science’ are the language of logic, here you are appealing more to emotion. Inappropriate style will probably have the opposite effect to that which you want.
* Action generation
If you want to generate action, be it commitment to a cause, authorisation of a spend or behaviour change you will really have to appeal to the emotions of the individual audience members. Here the question to ask yourself is “If I was a member of this audience What’s In It For Me?”; this is often referred to as WIIFM! And you will have to get each member of the audience to identify the answer to this question. If you are dealing with a homogenous audience then there is probably one answer for all, for example “You all keep your jobs”. More often there may be a diverse audience and you need to sell the benefits to a more varied range, for example “If you are a shareholder, there will be a better return on investment, if you are a manager this will make your life easier, if you are a staff member this will make your job more enjoyable and more secure.” Remember also that the same person may fall into two different categories; staff may be shareholders, managers are staff too.
* Consultation/ Consensus building
This is a potentially tricky area; are you consulting or creating a democracy? Be very clear in your mind and make this very clear to the audience. You may want to consult the client to ascertain what they think they want from you, but then you may have to tell them later that they cannot have it! It is easy to create unrealistic expectations here. Your decisions at this stage will affect how you run your “presentation”; will you pose questions and explain the feedback mechanism but gather and monitor the feedback later? Or will you ask for input from your audience there and then? Will you expect people to simply respond in plenary to a question? Or will you break the audience into groups and set them specific objectives? Can you offer a “voting” system, or will you make a decision and inform them of that there and then, or later?
Here the overwhelming message to you as the presenter is Less Is More. You want to give them a glimpse but not the whole story; they must be left hungry for more. You may want to fill a teaser with signposts to further sources of information, be they reading lists, website addresses, references to other presentations and seminars, names of organisations that would be of interest or even rhetorical questions “What will you do about this?” or suggestions “You may like to join…….society” As you can see there is a lot of consideration to give to the purpose of your presentation before you start to prepare it!