Presenting is not about rave reviews on your evaluation form, nor a thunderous round of applause at the end. And if you’re dreaming of being lifted on the shoulders of the audience as they parade you around the hotel lobby, then perhaps you’re in the wrong game.
There’s only one real measure of your presentation. And it’s this: the impact it had on the lives of those who listened to you!
How many times have you left a talk bursting with enthusiasm and ideas, yet when you got back to your desk nothing changed? Lots of content is no guarantee of success. So how do you make sure your presentation impacts the lives of those listening?
Before you power up your computer and start typing bullets into slides, think for a moment. What is it that you want the people listening to be able to do differently after they have heard you speak? How your talk will change their behaviour?
To answer that question, you have to start by knowing your audience. And one of the most important things you need to know is this: what do they already know about your topic? Where are they starting from?
Think of your presentation as a journey.
If I asked you directions to London, then the first thing I would have to know is where are you are now (because directions from York or even New York are very different!)
Where are they now, and where will you take them to? What skill can you give them that they don’t already have?
Thinking of an example…. If your topic is bicycles, you might decide that for this particular audience they really need to be able to:
- Describe all the components in the anatomy of a bicycle
- Complete routine maintenance on a bicycle including changing the gear set
- Ride a bicycle safely around a busy town centre in rush hour
By getting clear exactly what you want them to do at the very start of your preparation, you’ll easily be able to chose what to say and what not to say. Do they need to know classic mechanics and equations to ride a bicycle? Do they need to know how to oil the chain to maintain one? And if you want them to ride a bike, they’re going to need to get on a real bicycle (as the saying goes “no-one ever learned how to ride a bicycle by reading the manual”).
Once you’re clear on the purpose of your presentation, the next step is designing content to ensure that every single person present can do it by the end of your presentation. More of that in later blog posts….
So how do you ensure that you meet the needs of your audience? How do you measure whether or not you achieved it or not? Leave your thoughts and comments below.