‘I’ve been struggling for days with this presentation. I don’t know where to start or stop. How do I make it powerful? How do I make it memorable?’
Many clients ask for my assistance in creating powerful presentations. Though each case is unique, I thought I would share a little bit about the process I go through in going from blank page to powerful presentation.
I know this can be scary, but it is important that you start fresh. You need a blank page. Use a white board, a piece of paper, a text document, or a blank slide in your presentation software. The tool does not matter, the white space does.
Who’s in the room?
Before you start composing, you need to clearly identify who is in the room. Whether in person or virtually, you need to identify the person or persons that are your target audience. Is your audience the management committee? Or maybe a potential client? Is it a room full of mid-level managers? Once you identify the who, ask some of the following questions: What is their experience with your topic? What is their knowledge of it? Of you? If it helps, close your eyes and visualize this group sitting around the table. It is from their perspective that you write, not from yours. This is a big shift for most of us, unless of course you are your ideal audience.
What’s your one thing?
The next question I ask each client is: ‘What is the one goal of this presentation?’ It can be an action you want your audience to take, or a behavior you want them to change. Whatever your focus, it must be a single focus. This is critical. For the presentation to have impact, it must focus on only one thing – one desired action. Once you identify that action, write it in a clear and simple statement at the top of your white space. That is your sole purpose for this presentation, the measure for all points within. Do you want them to sign a contract? Do you want them to give you resources (people, money) for a project? Do you want them to behave differently – such as be more tolerant of differences around the office? That is your goal. your one objective. everything you do, say, and show in your presentation should support that outcome.
What’s in the way?
From the perspective of your audience, think about what obstacles are between you right now and the one action or goal. What is keeping them from signing the contract? What is keeping them from giving you resources for the project? What is keeping them from showing tolerance in the office? Write out as many obstacles as you can that may be between the goal and your audience.
What are the top 3?
Now, close the gap. Select the three most important or relavant obstacles. These are the areas of concern to your audience. Each of these three is now a topic. For each topic, give your audience what they need to go past, through, or over the obstacle and get to the action you desire. Give them confidence in your ability to deliver on the project so they will sign the agreement, or give you those resources. Show them that you have identified the risks and benefits, and you have contingency plans to overcome the risks. Show them how their investment of resources will return to them and their business. Show them the difference between tolerant and intolerant behavior. Whatever it is, give them what they need to take action.
Make it powerful
For each of the top three topics do the following: a.) show that you understand the audience’s concern or situation; b.) provide a connection between their concern and your proposed solution (the one big goal of the presentation); and c.) tell them what action they need to take to make it happen – to overcome the obstacle, resolve the issue, and ease their pain.
Take time for creativity
Powerful presentations use simple, impactful, and often emotional visual representations of the topic or concept. I recommend only one concept per slide (if you are using slides – if not, one topic per page, per drawing, etc.) Photos (a picture is worth a thousand words!) or a single word can be more memorable than a slide full of facts and figures. There are many resources to learn powerful presentation skills, one I recommend reading is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.
Focusing on one goal, using impactful visual techniques, and following the three steps to overcome obstacles help you to tell a story where your audience is the star and you are the guide showing them the way to the solution.
Good luck with your presentation!