Once you have been given the task of delivering a presentation you have two choices. First; has this presentation been done before – which is possible if it is to inform prospective clients about your organization. Or secondly, is this a new presentation that you are required to create from scratch?

If you are faced with the first option you may already have been given a PowerPoint programme containing the information and all you need is to present it with flair. That needs good public speaking skills and we can help you with that with our coaching programme.

But if you are faced with the second option you need to know a little about the way communication is structured. It is this second option I am going to look at this week.

When I talk about planning a presentation I often use the well known quote “First you tell ‘em what it is you’re gonna tell, then you tell ‘em. And finally you tell ‘em what it was you told ‘em”. This has been attributed to many people, Americans are definite it was first used by Emerson, or was it Mark Twain. Others have quoted everyone from Socrates through to Mick Jagger, and some of my references attribute it to either Johnson or possibly Disraeli! However it is a modern interpretation of Aristotle’s writing in “Poetics” and it has been used in slightly different forms by a number of people, but it was first used in this quoted form by Churchill in a speech to his old school.

So who’s bothered? Well I mention it because when you are planning what you are going to say you really need to know your subject and that means research. If you don’t do your research really thoroughly you may find yourself using inaccurate information. It’s all about credibility.

So go a

nd research – and the key to research is to know when to stop! How many of you, like me, when at university and with an assignment due, are still in the research stage the night before it’s due? That’s because we got caught in the research trap – just one more significant fact will pull it all together. I just need that all-encompassing quotation to stun them into silence. Sometimes I have found myself leaving my subject and investigating others because they are so interesting!

So researching needs skill – the skill to define precisely what it is you need to tell your audience. And it needs strength – the strength of mind to concentrate only on the information which supports that topic and the strength to reject all that which does not.

Defining precisely what it is you need to tell the audience is the key factor in your preparation. You need to be absolutely clear what the purpose is for your presentation, and exactly what it is your audience needs to know to grasp that purpose. Once you have decided on that, you have a basis for your research. It also helps you to decide whether what you are researching really supports the subject or if you are slipping into the research trap!

Consider research as laying the foundation of the presentation. It is the solid concrete base on which you can build the speech. All the ornamentation in the world is as nothing if the foundations are built on shifting sands! Later this week I will be covering the organisation of the information, but first get the foundation right.

*This article is based on our “Business Communication for Managers” 24 hours of training.


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