Is there a wrong way to prepare for a presentation?
You betcha. You are asking for trouble, if you think that preparing is: gathering all the relevant data, creating a PowerPoint, trying to imagine questions that will arise, formulating answers to those questions, and running through the whole thing a couple of times. Why? You’ve made the presentation all about what you need and want to say and devoted no time to what your audience wants or needs to hear.
Thinking our presentations are all about us is a trap everyone falls into. Recently, I offered to help out an overwhelmed client. Late at night, I sent an email saying, “ Anything I can do to help? I’ve got your voice down.” I awoke to a one word response from my client, “HA!” I was flabbergasted by this answer. Was the client saying, “I didn’t have her voice down?” “Was she saying it’s funny I would offer to help?” Then a light bulb went off in my head; we were having a context issue.
In my world, “voice,” means word choice and syntax in both speech and writing. In her world, “voice,” means the actual sound of your voice. Because I had made an offer without knowing, or even thinking of my audience’s context it had fallen on deaf ears. I hadn’t prepared for this conversation in the most important way of all by thinking about how my client would interpret my message. Unless you know the context, your audience is bringing to your presentation you can’t frame your thoughts to achieve your desired results.
There are many easy ways to avoid falling into this trap.
If your audience is comprised of less than four people, it’s simple to arm yourself with information about each one of them.
1. Google them.
2. Google Image them; a picture is often worth a thousand words.
3. Read their LinkedIn.
4. If there are articles about them, read the articles.
5. If they have written articles, read what they have written.
6. Go to their website, assuming they have one, read how they choose to present themselves.
7. Ask someone who knows them, their interests, challenges, and needs.
Doing this research is not the end of your preparation it’s only the beginning. Armed with your audience’s context you need to decide how to deliver your message so that it resonates with them.
If the audience is too large to perform these tasks there are two routes to take.
1. Do all of the above for key decision makers.
2. Ascertain what interests or concerns have brought this disparate group together.
3. Research how their needs and interests have previously been met and where there are problems or gaps in service.
4. Go on forums where actual consumers are discussing the product or issue and read the phrases and terminology your audience is using when discussing the product, then use those words in creating your presentation.
5. If you are presenting at a large conference
, research the other presenters and figure out how to tailor your presentation to differentiate your message and yourself
Preparing a presentation to meet the needs of a specific audience gives you the ability to connect them emotionally with your message. Once they’ve connected it’s much easier to achieve buy-in and compel action.
And isn’t that always your goal… to move your audience to action?