“Getting your message across” is a key aspect in our industry. Far too often are we too verbose, too detailed, too specific losing our audience in acronyms, complex settings and unclear outcomes. Yet it can be “simple” to ensure you/we get our message across to ensure you/we create an impactful presentation in order to achieve the desired outcomes: 

  1. Have a key message

    • Distinguish between  “message” and “information”
    • Information is needed to convey the message, but seldom is an “information only deck” clear for the reader
    • Ensure that you can state the purpose of your conversation / presentation in ideally one sentence.
    • It might not be easy to do that, however if you cannot explain the purpose in one sentence you have not found your key message
  2. Understand the audience

    • Make sure that you understand who you are presenting to
    • Understand what each person’s background is; what he / she main focus area is and what possible questions / clarifications could he/she raise and when.
    • Make sure that you understand what each audience member’s personal objective is.
    • What aspects of your objective can be shared with the person opposite you?
  3. Make “language” a non-issue

    • Each recipient will have different experiences and understandings – ensure you “fine tune” it according to audienc
    • Make sure you understand the way your audience will receive “your message” and remember that most of us English is not their first language
    • Avoid using appreciations and do not assume that people understand what you are referring to (even though they might imply / suggest that they do)
  4. Understand the outcome(s)

    • Understand what you want the audience to do with “the message
    • What is / or should be the outcome of your conversation / presentation– is there a decision or are there any next steps that you need them to agree to or should they do something as a result etc
    • Always “have the answer” in mind when driving a particular outcome and be clear with your audience
  5. Use “appropriate” tools to “present” to your audience

    • PowerPoint or Prezi is just a tool – you might need it but sometimes it can be more impactful if you don’t
    • Don’t start with a blank slide and start create content – design the “way to present” via the outcomes and the type of stakeholders you will have in front of you
    • Face2face is not always possible so you must ensure you plan for failure – video conference starts to slow down, your Lync / Skype is not properly working etc
  6. Have a storyline

    • Have a start, a middle and an finish
    • Ensure that each slide / page / paragraph is “connected” – when using slides use the title and a kicker to connect each slide as per your storyline
    • Remember that you present to people – so add fun (as appropriate pls)
  7. Adjust storyline according to your audience

    • Different nationalities + people with different backgrounds will “consume” your delivered information in different ways so make sure that you align your storyline
    • Some people want to know the answers first and then the justification to why that is the answer – others want it exactly the other way around
    • Ensure you understand the audience, make language a non-issue and understand how your audience expects to consume your information to get your message
  8. KISS – Keep It Short & Simple

    • No death by slideware unless it is a lecture….
    • Get to the point, fast, and try to decide the information aspects you needed to ensure your audience get your message
    • Try to avoid overload each page / slide – always focus on the message
  9. Validate understanding / do not assume it

    • Make sure you validate understanding
    • Sometimes it is good to do that indirect – so rather than asking “did you understand” try “is there anything I can add / what is your view?”
    • Always check understanding at every key stage – maybe use different presenter or change presentation approach
  10. Don’t just present – Involve your audience

    • Have a conversation; not a 45min monologue
    • Ensure that you involve your audience – as appropriate – in your conversation
    • Use a two way feedback to ensure people feel part of the story

Key to success is balancing all 10 aspects and ensure that you consider all 10 aspects – not 9 or only 6. A number of years ago I witnessed a 20 min presentation by Pierre Hessler – it was one of the best examples of how to deliver an impactful presentation. I asked him how long did he planned and prepared for the 20 min and he noted that it took him 1 ½ full days. So rehearsal is clearly important as well.

Whenever I present I usually “test” my presentation with a “neutral” audience – like my son. He is very critical has a very short attention span and tells me very quickly if I have lost him. I usually find out very quickly – ie in less than 5sec if my “message” is clear or whether I just relay information. A good presentation is able to abstract complexity and help the audience to understand a complex situation in a very simple and easy to follow storyline.  

Thanks for reading.