To start at the beginning, what is the most important thing to have when you are giving a presentation?
- Lots of pretty slides?
- Lots of self confidence?
- A full script?
- Knowledge of your audience?
- Something to say?
No! I believe the most important thing is to have a measurable objective.
It is amazing how many people stand up to give a presentation without having an objective in mind, nevermind a measurable one.
Right at the outset, when you are planning your presentation you should start by thinking, “What do I want my audience to do?”, “why am I giving this presentation”, “how could I measure how successful I have been?”
If you don’t want your audience to do something, I would question why you are doing the presentation in the first place.
Many people give a sales presentation with the objective of selling their product or service, but I would have to question how valid that is as an objective. In most business to business sales it is very unlikely that you give a presentation and the customers says “Great where do I sign?” Usually it is 2 or 3 months later when the deal goes through, by which time you will have forgotten all about the presentation, and if the deal doesn’t happen you certainly will not blame your presentation technique.
What you need is an objective which is both measurable and timely. Something which you can use to judge the success of your presentation within a few minutes, hours or a most a couple of days after your talk.
Having a clear short term objective will influence what you say in your presentation. For instance, if your decide that your objective is to get your audience to sign up to a pilot project, then the focus of your presentation will become the benefits of running a pilot project, rather than the more general benefits of my solution.
When you are giving a presentation to a more generic audience, which is intended to raise awareness on a subject, rather than sell something, then having an objective which measures the level of interest may be more appropriate. You could measure this by counting the number of people who come up to you after the presentation to ask questions. Having an objective, of say 10 people coming up to talk afterwards, will also change your presentation as you will need to hint that there is more to the subject than you can cover in the time allotted, to encourage people to ask further questions.
Finally, the most important aspect of having a measurable objective is that you must tell your audience how they can meet your objective as the very last thing that you say. Have a “call to action” that tells people what they need to do next. You don’t need to reveal to them what your objective is, but you must tell them how to fulfil it, otherwise if left to chance they probably won’t.
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