Number 1 rule of presenting with impact.

When it comes to preparing for an important talk or presentation, our preferences land somewhere on a continuum between planned and impromptu.

Regardless of the amount of preparation you typically need, there is one rule that doesn’t change:

Design the experience, not the presentation.

Let’s take a look at how Dan and Jane each approach their talks.

Dan is a high energy, action oriented entrepreneur. When he walks into a room, excitement flows through the crowd like the wave in a sports stadium. He is the center of attention. He’s one of those people who will take action in the moment. Want him to connect you to someone in his network? He’s already texting a message to you both. Fast. Efficient. Immediate.

When Dan is faced with a request to give a presentation on a new topic, he immediately opens his powerpoint presentation software and starts adding bullet points to his slides. He skips right over ready and aim and goes immediately to fire.

Dan has created a template in powerpoint with an outline he fills in with the particular topic. This supports his impromptu style and allows him to say yes to more presentation opportunities.

When he delivers his talk he is high energy and his energy carries him through the duration of the talk. As people are leaving the room you can hear the comments:
“Wow. He’s got a lot of energy.”
“Yeah, he really seems comfortable in front of the room.”

Dan has set up a structure that focuses on designing the presentation, not the experience.

Jane has confidence in her knowledge and can distill large amounts of information into clear and brief messages. When you have a conversation with her she makes you feel like you are the only person in the room – even in a crowd.

When Jane is asked to give a presentation on a new topic, she immediately begins to ask clarifying questions. She wants to know more about the expectations, the audience, the location and the desired outcome.

Jane has a number of different tools she could use to deliver the talk, but wants to know what would work best in the situation based on all of the other elements (the audience, the context, the message). She isn’t able to accept impromptu presentation requests since she needs to adapt her talks to the situation.

When she delivers her talk, the room is a bit more quiet than Dan’s but the audience is engrossed in what she is saying. There is always relevant information and a call to action defined by the desired outcome. Comments from the audience leaving the room include:
“What was your action?”
“I’m going with number 3.”
“I liked number 1 best. That’s my take away.”

Jane has set up an approach that allows her to design the experience, not the presentation.

The difference between the two is the outcome. At the end of Dan’s presentation everyone was talking about Dan and his energy. At the end of Jane’s presentation the comments were about themselves and the action they were going to take.

Whether you lean toward impromptu or planned, ask yourself:

What is the experience I want to design?


P.S. For a great example of focusing on the experience, attend your local Theatre’s production of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now THAT’s an experience.