The success of your speaking is determined primarily by the time you spend preparing before you step in front of your audience. A good presentation requires careful planning and lack of planning is always apparent. Sure clues are speeches that are too long, too detailed, confusing, vague, boring or off-track. You can spend less time producing short, powerful presentations if you systematically prepare beforehand.
The often overlooked first and most critical step in preparation is understanding the “what” and the “why” of your presentation: its purpose. Your purpose should be the broad general outcome you want the presentation to achieve. Here are three questions you can ask yourself to clarify the objective of your presentation:
o Why am I giving this presentation?
o What do I want the audience to know or do at the end of the presentation?
o How do I want the audience to feel?
It often helps us prepare for a presentation when we understand the different types of presentations. Here are four basic types that differ primarily in the amount of detail presented and the level of persuasiveness required to meet the objective of the presentation:
Sales – Use the sales presentation to sell an idea or suggestion to clients, upper management, co-workers, or employees. You may also use the sales presentation to persuade an audience to take a particular action or adopt a belief. This type of presentation uses a lot of persuasive skills and seldom requires extensive detail.
Explanatory — The explanatory presentation is best used to familiarize, give an overall perspective, or identify new developments. It should rarely involve heavy detail, but should offer the audience new or renewed information and understanding. It does not require extensive persuasive efforts.
Instructional – When you want to teach others how to use something, such as a new procedure or a piece of hardware, use the instructional presentation. There is usually more audience participation and involvement with this presentation format. It generally involves extensive detail. This is a persuasive presentation because you are convincing your audience to use a new technique or to adopt a new method of doing something.
Oral report– oral reports bring the audience up to date on something with which they are already familiar. These generally focus on facts, figures and other details and involve little persuasive efforts.
Relax and try to enjoy it!
Know Your Audience
After you have a statement of purpose and understand the type of presentation you will be giving, you must consider the particular audience you have in mind and how to mold your presentation to fit the specific characteristics of that audience. The more time you devote to analyzing your audience beforehand, the less you will have to do “on the spot.”
Here are some ways you can acquire information in advance regarding your audience:
o Ask the presentation host for information about the audience. Find out general demographics such as age, sex, professional level, specific interests and needs. Also ask what the group has responded well to in the past. What presentation styles were well received?
o Talk to members of the audience. If possible, arrive early enough to survey one or more members of the audience to find out what they expect and what they would like to hear.
o Talk to other speakers. If you know other speakers who have spoken to the same group, ask them what worked and what they would do differently with the group.
Here are some questions you should always ask yourself to help you to analyze the needs of each particular audience you will address.
- Why should they listen to you?
- How does what you say affect them?
- What’s in it for them to listen to you?
- Why is it important for the audience to hear what you have to say?