New Summary Available for ‘Advanced Presentations by Design’

Thinking, researching, planning, and doing-all the hard work of putting together a presentation is worth nothing if an audience is not convinced to act. Unfortunately, in this age when success depends so greatly on the ability to effectively communicate complex information, presenters are overwhelmed with bad presentation design advice. In Advanced Presentations by Design, marketing and communications expert Dr. Andrew Abela offers readers ten steps to improve presentation impact. His Extreme Presentation™ method, which is based on hundreds of empirical studies and has been successfully tested by several Fortune 500 companies, helps presenters determine who their intended audience is, what that audience needs to know, and how that information should be conveyed to promote action.

Presenters today are faced with an abundance of bad presentation design advice. To ensure that they create successful presentations that get noticed and compel audiences into action, presenters should follow the ten Extreme Presentation™ steps:

  1. Identify the communication preferences of the different personality types in the audience. Presenters must identify if their audience members are focused inward or outward, if they prefer details or the big picture, if they like to focus on logic or feelings, and if they want up-front conclusions or an array of options.
  2. Set specific objectives for what the audience should think and do differently after the presentation. Objectives should include both behavioral and attitudinal components that encourage audience members toward desired actions.
  3. Identify a problem that the audience has and let the presentation contribute to solving it. To keep an audience interested in a presentation, the problem should be a real one that causes the audience personal or professional pain if it is not solved.List all the information that may need to be included in the presentation. Evidence can strengthen a presentation’s persuasiveness, but only if it is real, specific, new, and different.
  4. Identify brief anecdotes that highlight the most important points. The three kinds of stories that tend to be highly effective are those that are directly related to an organization or an issue, those that are hypothetical, and those that are metaphorical.
  5. Sequence the information so that it tells a compelling story. Effective stories repeatedly create tensions and solve them.
  6. Identify the most effective graphical elements to use in the presentation. Graphics should be diverse and relevant if they are to enhance the presentation.
  7. Create visuals that communicate the information concisely and effectively. PowerPoint’s Smart Art, Ballroom style, and Conference Room style are the three most popular methods of conveying information visually.
  8. Identify any potential roadblocks to achieving the objectives and make a plan to deal with each. Because not everybody who will be needed to implement a presentation’s recommendations will be in attendance, a presenter must have a plan for getting the message through to everyone.
  9. Decide how the success of the presentation will be measured. Usually, a presentation’s success is determined by whether or not the audience takes the requested action.

Improving Presentations – The 5 Purposes of a Presentation

Most presentation text books talk about the importance of having a single purpose for your presentation. While I understand the logic, the fact is presentations, like life, are messy. Rarely as a presenter are we trying to satisfy just one need. There are several important priorities we need to consider and for that reason, I encourage you to consider the five purposes of your speech.

The Five Purposes

1 – General Purpose

This is just a word that generally describes what your presentation is meant to accomplish. Is the purpose to inform? To educate? To persuade? To inspire? What, in a word, is the overall purpose of the presentation?

2 – Specific Purpose

The specific purpose describes what the presentation will be about. This is the “one purpose” that other speech books talk about. Think of the specific purpose as the description that will appear in the conference program or in an email describing the meeting where you’ll present. The specific purpose is how you will describe for the audience what to expect.

3 – The Meeting Planner’s Purpose

Assuming you were asked by someone to speak, consider what that person’s motives are for asking you to make a speech. The meeting planner could be a conference coordinator who is hoping to get as many attendees to the conference as possible. The meeting planner could be your boss who wants you to present to a group of executives because you’re the expert on the topic. It could be a friend who wants you to share your experience about a non-profit organization that you benefited from.

The meeting planner’s purpose describes what the person who called the meeting is hoping to accomplish. If you’re not sure of the meeting planner’s intentions, ask him or her. A good place to start is to ask, “What were you hoping the audience will walk away with from this presentation?” Or ask “What do you want the audience to see, feel or do differently as a result of this meeting and/or my presentation?”

4 – The Audience’s Purpose

The audience’s purpose is the reason that members of this group are coming to see you. Now you might assume that it’s because they read the specific purpose in a program description and thought the subject matter seemed interesting or helpful. But not so fast! Don’t assume that you know or understand their purpose. Also don’t assume that the meeting planner had fully explained what the audience will want to get out of your presentation. Good meeting planners will have a real sense about what the attendees want to get out of a presentation. But there may be additional motives that the meeting planner doesn’t or can’t articulate. Don’t assume that the combination of your program description and the meeting planner knowledge will tell the whole picture. Instead, ask the audience.

How do you do that? Consider the following strategies.

Get a list of names and contact information for people who will be attending your presentation. If it’s a company meeting, look at the names of those invited on the meeting invitation. If it’s for an organization, ask the meeting planner for names and contact information for people he or she believes will be at the event. Ten is a good number to ask for. Chances are, there will be some people who are out of the office, or too busy to speak, so having ten names gives you plenty of opportunity to reach several people in the organization.

Interview as many people from the list as you can. Find out what these people believe the audience has an interest in. Are the participants willing participants who want to learn particular information from you? Or are they being required to be there? Also ask the individuals you interview what they personally want to know about the subject. Be sure you understand how what you have to talk about will be used within the audience members’ worlds.

Use websites and social media tools to connect with your audience. Work with the group to see if they’re willing to use their Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn group, email list, website or other electronic sources to engage their members and to get feedback on their views of your topic. While collecting information electronically is helpful, it should not serve as a substitute for having live conversations. We present rather than just deliver information in written form because there is much that to be learned from listening and interacting with a presenter. The same is true when learning from our audiences before we present.

Greet meeting attendees as they come in the door. Smile. Introduce yourself. Let them know that you are the person presenting the material. If you have time, ask more of your questions to see how they feel about your topic.

All these efforts to meet the audience needs will pay off as you develop content. It will also pay off with regards to having people “on your side” when you start to speak. The audience members that you’ve greeted or spoken to will feel more connected to you as a person and more likely to be supportive and engaged during the presentation.

5 – Your Purpose

You agreed to do a presentation at a meeting or event. Why? Why did you say yes? Was it because your boss made you? Did you volunteer? How do you personally want benefit as a result of giving the presentation? Are you hoping for respect and recognition? Is the presentation a pathway to additional responsibilities and promotion?

Whether you volunteered, were asked or forced to give the presentation, the presentation will come to represent who you are. If you present, you’re going to make an impression. How important is it to you to make a good impression? What do you want that impression to be?

As you consider the five purposes, remember, they don’t have to be in conflict with one another. Ideally, you want to factor in each of the five factors in a way that they reinforce each other. If your boss asked you to present because of your subject matter expertise, then the boss could be wanting to get the funding for a new project, you could want executive management to know about your technical capabilities, the audience could want to know the bottom line of the impact of the change, and all of those purposes can support one another. When they don’t, then you have to make some tough decisions. If the meeting planner’s goal is for you to deliver a message that is contrary to what you stand for, will you be willing to say no? Presentations, like life, can be messy. Think through your five purposes to help make your next presentation a little cleaner!

Creating Presentations

When asked to give a presentation, consider using the four P’s of presentation steps to help you with your creation. The four P’s are: Plan, Prepare, Practice, and Perform. This article will address steps one and two, which are about planning and preparing the presentation.

1. During Plan, you will consider your audience and why you are giving the presentation along with what generally appeals to them and why they may want to know about your subject. You will determine with the person requesting the presentation how much time you will have and what type of visual aids may be relevant and usable at the location of final presentation. You can find some hints in the Briefing section of the book “R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizards’ Approach” that aids in development of planning questions to ask during this step such as:

  • When do I need to be there? Date of presentation with start/end times and location.
  • Who will be there? Description of primary audience and names of decision makers.
  • What will appeal to this audience and why do they want to know about this subject? Reason(s) presentation is necessary or relevant to this audience.
  • What types of supporting documents and audio/visuals are preferred by audience? Items such as projection or handouts that is preferred by or available with this audience.
  • How much of presentation time should be allowed for questions and answers at the end? Most presentations are followed by Q&A from audience to speaker and knowing the desired timeframe allows better time allotment of prepared speaking points.

2. Prepare your presentation by thinking about both the beginning and ending, and then add the detail in the middle that supports your strong start and end. Now that you know what to say and are aware of your visual aid limitation, think about how you can make the presentation memorable by developing any visuals that may accompany the presentation making sure their flow matches the presentation. When developing visuals, remember you don’t want people fumbling with handouts or noting spelling errors when they could be listening. When preparing, consider what the Presentation Plan form in the book “R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizards’ Approach” suggests as possible outline questions for a briefing presentation:

  • Why are we here? Reasons presentation is necessary or desirable at this time.
  • What have we done? History, work, or statistics related to purpose or presentation.
  • What do we plan to do? Possible future outcomes or actions as result of presentation or decision to be made based on presentation.
  • What have we learned? Summary of presentation or recommendations.
  • What have we to share? Stories, statistics, charts, or other data to prove points.
  • What do we need? Resources to facilitate presentation and discussion or to accomplish actions.

With the Plan and Prepare steps, you have learned to ask questions to help you develop speaking points and visuals aids. To understand the Practice and Perform steps, see article on “Delivering Presentations”.