You have diligently answered the audience related and logistic questions from my last blog as you prepare for your presentation. You are now staring at a blank sheet of paper or your computer screen seeking inspiration for the content of your presentation.
As you write your first draft of the presentation, keep the objective of your talk in mind at all times. What it is that your audience needs to know or be able to do at the end. This will help you to focus on the core content areas that your audience MUST know in order to achieve this objective. If you have time you can focus on content that you could describe as SHOULD know and finally the bonus material is COULD or NICE to know.
A common mistake is to try to squeeze everything you know into your presentation and a short period of time. Trust me – it doesn’t work. You are not there to prove how smart you are and how much you know – your goal is to raise the knowledge level of your audience and to pique their curiosity to find out more.
An effective presentation is not a ‘fire hose’ experience where everything comes at you at such a rate that the audience becomes overwhelmed. Have you ever sat through a presentation wondering what the point was? why it was relevant to you? or where there was so much information that you couldn’t keep it all straight? Its frustrating isn’t it?
Here’s a the start of a short poem (The Elephant’s Child) by Rudyard Kipling:
I keep six honest serving men
(they taught me all I know);
Their names are What and Why
and When, How and Were and Who.
and if you can keep these 6 questions in mind it will help ensure your presentation stays focused on the purpose and answers the questions your audience will be asking themselves.
A Quick Activity:
- On a sheet of paper write the objective for your presentation – what is it the audience needs to know or do differently as a result of your presentation?
- Now quickly list the MUST KNOW topics that you will need to cover to achieve this. Be ruthless, re read this list and where you can, reduce it.
Now think about the time you have available. Lets say its 30 minutes. If your first reaction to your time frame was “how on earth will I talk for that long”, let me show you
- Opening and Introduction: 2 minutes
- Content: 25 Minutes
- Closing: 3 minutes
This is a simple presentation structure – a beginning, a middle and an end.
Now look back at your list…how many MUST KNOW bullet points did you identify that need to be included in your presentation? 4?, 5?, 6?, more? With this presentation structure you have 25 minutes to cover these points. If its MUST KNOW then plan on at least 5 minutes per point during your presentation. So with 6 points - that’s 30 minutes, you’ve just over run your presentation time slot… Do you need to shorten your list?
By focusing on the core points and timing, you may find it less intimidating to fill 5 minute sections than 30 or 60! Also it may help to avoid the embarrassment of not preparing sufficiently and having far too much information for the time available.
So you are now ready to WRITE your presentation (no Powerpoint slides at this stage) and then we can start to edit and improve.