Most business presentations are about influencing, persuading and motivating people to do something, to take an action, to adopt a new way of thinking or to see things in a different light. That is why it is essential to end your presentation with a call to action. Your call to action tells your audience what you would like them to do next, in essence how to fulfill your objective for your presentation.
Everything in your presentation should lead your audience towards accepting the call to action. If you could just state your call to action and they would do it, then there would be no need for the presentation. In effect the role of the presentation is to move your audience from where they are now, i.e. their current view of the world, to a new view where they are more likely to accept your call to action.
You are going to take your audience on a journey. A journey of discovery that takes them from where they are now to where you want / need them to be.
Plan your route
Any long journey needs to be planned in advance. As the tour leader your travelling companions will expect you to have done your preparation and know where you are going and how to get there. So will your audience.
Know where you are going
When you start off on a journey it is usually advisable to know where you are heading. This is definitely true for a business presentation. You must have a clear, timely and measurable objective. You must know where you are taking your audience; otherwise you could end up just wasting their time and yours.
Know where they are coming from
Equally important is to know where your audience are coming from. If you were organising a trip, there would be little point in starting it in Paris, if all your delegates lived in London. You need to know as much as possible about your audience including what they already know about your topic so that you can start in the right place. What knowledge and beliefs do they currently hold? Is there an “elephant in the room”? If so, you are best confronting it in your presentation rather than trying to detour round it.
It is also important is to judge what mood your audience are in, and start your presentation in line with that mood. There is no point cracking a joke at the start of a serious business presentation, the audience won’t be in the mood and you won’t get the reaction you were hoping for.
How are you going to travel?
On a real journey you need to decide what mode of transportation you are going to take, which may depend on the time you have available. Will it be car, bus, train or plane? Similarly for a presentation you need to decide what format you are going to use. Will it be just talking? Or using slides? Maybe you will incorporate a video or some interactive activities to get the audience involved.
When I visited Florence recently, there were lots of tour guides walking around the town followed by crocodiles of tourists. Most of these tour guides held brightly coloured umbrellas so that their entourage could spot them and follow them through the crowded streets. How will your audience follow you through your presentation? After all you don’t want anyone getting lost. Have you got a prop you could use to help get your message across?
Straight from A to B
Sometimes when we are travelling we just want to get there as quickly and easily as possible. Straight from A to B without any deviations, hold ups or detours. In this case the travelling is just a necessary evil that has to be endured so that you can reach where you are going. Taking this approach for a presentation will ensure a very boring presentation that nobody will listen to.
As a tour guide you want to make the journey an experience in its own right, you want to make it interesting so that your audience enjoy the journey not just the destination. Rather than going straight from A to B and telling everyone, exactly how you are going to get there, how long it will take and what route you will be going on, you want to take you audience on a tour, tell them about the points of interest on route, interact with them and maybe even lead a sing along.
Again, the same is true with a presentation. Taking your audience from A to B in a straight line and telling them exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there enables the audience to get ahead of you. You have just told them what you are going to be talking about and if they think that they have heard it all before or aren’t interested they will just stop listening.
In your presentation, you need to build in some points of interest to talk about, you should make it more of a mystery tour, so that they have to listen in order to find out where you are taking them.
Knowledgeable and Concise
Fairly obviously, if you are giving a presentation you need to know what you are talking about, just as a tour guide needs to know about the locations they are travelling through and the history of the places. But you don’t need to tell everybody everything you know about the subject. Keep it concise and to the point. If you audience wants to know more they can always ask questions.
What to do when you arrive
When you arrive at the end of your journey the most important things that a tour guide will do is tell you what to do next, before they leave you to your own devices. At the end of a presentation the most important thing for you to do is to state your call to action. Tell your audience what you would like them to do, in light of all the information you have given them in your presentation. Then sit down and shut up and wait for them to do it.