So; you have a presentation to give, and you are not sure where to start. The temptation is to switch on the computer; create a new PowerPoint document and stare at the blank screen; – and what’s wrong with that?
Well, it’s like deciding you want to go on holiday and simply arrive at the station and find the train timetable. There’s the timetable – but what use is it if you don’t know where you want to go?
You must first decide your preferred destination; then you need to research the ways in which you can get there; and having decided that you would like to use a train then, and only then check what trains are available to take you to your desired destination.
Once you have embarked on your journey you will need to check off the stations to ensure that you are still on the right track – and if you have planned your journey correctly you should arrive at exactly where you planned to be, even if you have had to take a detour on the way.
Any journey needs some planning, and if we need to arrive at a certain place within a certain time frame, it will need careful planning indeed.
So what’s that got to do with creating a presentation?
If we have not decided exactly what this presentation needs to achieve we could be like the person who vaguely thinks tropical Cairns might be good this time of year, but ends up in chilly Melbourne.
So the first task in creating that stunning presentation is to be absolutely clear what you want to achieve at the end. Is the presentation designed to sell the product? Then if you do not generate a sale, no matter how colourful and startling the PowerPoint production is, you would have failed to meet your objective.
If you really want to generate support for your point of view and get that petition signed, but at the end of the show your audience says ‘Interesting’ and simply walks out – then you too, no matter how impassioned your appeal, will have failed.
So the first objective in your presentation route map is to decide where exactly this journey will be taking both you and your audience. And write it down.
Only now can you consider what facts, figures, evidence or emotional factors will actually get you there. Most probably you will find enough information for a dozen journeys – just like the holiday makers who feel tropical Cairns would be good at this time of year; they could fly, sail, drive straight through, in easy stages or take a train.
Their decision would be dictated by the time available for the holiday. If they only have a short time then the direct and fastest route will be the most effective. If they have a fair amount of time up their sleeve they might choose to take a leisurely cruise or even drive, exploring as they go. Strangely the same factors will impact on the way in which we choose to arrive at our presentation destination as well.
If we have a short time available to us, then we must decide precisely what the audience needs to know for us to obtain our aim. We don’t have time to explore side issues; we must keep to the main line stopping only at the essential information stations as we rattle through on the express.
However, if we have much more time, we can decide to detour to explore other factors along the route, as long as we keep progressing towards our destination.
So we select our evidence, our facts and figures carefully to ensure that we are moving towards our desired outcome – and having written it down, we keep it close to us to remind us that we have to reach it in limited time.
Once we have got our information together, and have sorted it out in the right order to keep us on track, then – and only then – do we switch on the computer and select that new PowerPoint file.
This time, instead of sitting in front of a blank screen we are well aware of where we are going, how we intend to get there and the stops along the way.
This time, you will be like the Brisbane holiday maker heading for Cairns, who sees Gladstone, then Rockhampton followed by Townsville passing by and then gently rocks into Cairns with the carefully planned journey safely completed.*
Creating a presentation is no different to creating the perfect holiday – both need a fair degree of careful planning. If we set out on either journey without a clear route map we might find ourselves ending up somewhere completely different – and no matter how pleasant that journey it will always end with a sense of failure.
So plan your route map with your destination firmly in mind and you can set out with a certainty of success.
Michele @ Trischel
* For non Australians, a quick look at the map of Queensland, will demonstrate how effective this route map is to take you from Brisbane to tropical Cairns.