Too many speakers think because they’ve got a bunch of words and slides, it’s a presentation. Wrong. What they have is a document. It truly becomes a presentation only when it's heard, understood, and believed by an audience.
When presentations don't work, what's often missing is a solid, working knowledge of the audience. Who they are. Why they are there. And what they want and need to hear.
The work of developing a fully-functional presentation begins with the audience. You need to build content around what's going to get them to hear, understand, and believe.
When a presentation really works, it must be a transaction between speaker and audience.
You know this is true because you've sat in an audience -- listening to words and watching slides -- saying to yourself, "I don't get it." The speaker thinks he or she has given a presentation. But your "not getting it" means no real transaction took place.
So the most important word in your presentation development process is "transaction." No transaction, no value –- to the audience or to you.
Let's say you want to make your monthly mortgage payment. You decide to take cash to the bank. So you put the money in an envelope, walk into the bank, and leave the envelope on the island where they have the ballpoint pens on chains. And you walk out -- thinking, "Well, I intended to pay my mortgage. I had the cash. And I left it in the bank."
This is exactly what a lot of presenters do. They show up, at the appointed hour, in the room, with their words and slides. They go through the whole thing. And they leave -- somehow thinking the audience has "gotten it."
What's really happened? Like your misplaced mortgage payment, there’s no real transaction. In fact, it's a loss all the way around. Lost time. Lost money. And, from the audience's standpoint, lost opportunity to get your message. The audience is left with that frustrating, "I don't get it" feeling.
Every year, thousands upon thousands of business presentations wind up exactly this way. No transaction. No value.
As a speaker, you want a robust transaction between you and your audience. You want them to "get it."
Here's how to make this happen. Don't start with, "This is what I want to say." Or by trying to rearrange leftover, recycled words and slides. Instead, go to the white board and make two columns. Column one is your content, point by point. Column two is what the audience wants and needs to hear, point by point. Connect the points in your content with the points the audience wants to hear. Erase everything else.
Now you have the beginnings of a presentation that really is a transaction -- not just a misplaced envelope of money lying on a table.
©2009 Pete Ryckman