January 5, 2010

What do you want the audience to do as a result of your presentation?

To create an effective presentation the first thing you need to decide is what the objective of the presentation is.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But there may be more to that simple statement than you first perceive.  You could say that for a product presentation the objective is for the audience to learn about the product, but that would be a very poor objective, as there is no action associated with it and no way of measuring how successfully it has been accomplished.  The question you should ask yourself is ‘Okay, after my presentation they will know more about our product, but what do I want them to do next?’.

If your answer is ‘I want them to buy it’ then maybe you have gone to the other extreme.  This objective may be fine if you work on a market stall and sell a vegetable chopper that cuts, slices and dices everything from tomatoes to pineapples.  In that case, it may be realistic that after you have presented how easy it is to use and what a lovely job it makes, some people will want to buy one.  For a market stall presentation, “selling the product” is a very good and plausible objective, which is measured by the thickness of your wallet at the end of the day.

However, for most business-to-business sales, it is unlikely that the presentation will lead directly to the sale. The sale may happen months later by which time you will have forgotten how well the presentation went.

So what is your objective?  And how can you measure your success?  The best objectives are SMART objectives.  

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

In the above examples objectives “getting the audience to know more about my products” is not easily measurable or very specific, and buying the product is not very timely.

A reasonable objective, when the presentation is the first real contact that members of the audience have had with your company, may be for 40% to arrange follow up meetings with your sales force.

When you are presenting at a conference on a subject, in which your company specialises, you may measure the success by the number of people who come up to talk to you after you have finished. You can set yourself a target of say 10 people. If only two people want to talk to you afterwards, then it may be because your presentation did not stir up enough interest. If over 20 people come to talk you, you will have exceeded your expectations.

As every presentation has an objective it is important that the presentation concludes with a call to action that informs, encourages and directs people to meet your objective.  If you want them to arrange a meeting with your sales force, you need to tell them to arrange that meeting and make it as easy as possible for them to do it.  Consider having the sales force join you after the presentation so they can talk to their prospective clients, there and then.

With an objective of having people to talk with you after a conference presentation, you need to tell the audience where you will be and that you would welcome the opportunity to discuss any aspect of the subject in more depth, on an individual basis, or answer any more specific questions that your presentation has raised in their minds. 

As you can see, by objective, what I am really talking about is what action you want the delegates to take following the presentation.

Of course, yours is not the only objective you need to consider.  What are the audience’s objectives likely to be?  What do they want to get from your presentation?  Understanding your audience and their objectives is the key to an effective presentation and is discussed in the section entitled ‘The Audience’. 

Your OSRAM objective should be SMART and remember to use a call to action at the end of you presentation to reinforce your objective.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever



January 5, 2010

First impressions are very important.  You need to capture people’s attention and confirm their hope that you will be an interesting person to listen to.  You need to get them involved.

Whether your presentation is a stand-alone event or just one in a whole series of different presentations, it is absolutely vital that you start by grabbing the audience’s attention.  If you don’t metaphorically grab them by their lapels and make them pay attention, they are likely to be still thinking about the last presentation, or a phone call they had just before they arrived at the meeting. They may even be thinking “I hope this doesn’t go on too long, I have things to do.”  You need to capture people’s attention and confirm their hope that you will be an interesting person to listen to.  You need to get them involved right from the outset.

There is an age old saying about how to present: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them“.

When I first heard this I thought that seems a bit repetitive, surely people will get bored if I say everything three times. But I have since learnt that this single rule adds more to most presentations than any other, as long as you tell it right.

The “Tell them what you are going to tell them” is your opportunity to grab the audience’s attention. Put the core subject of your presentation across in a way that challenges the listener and makes the listener think.

There are many standard ways of capturing your audience’s attention. 

  • Asking questions and eliciting a response
  • Rhetorical questions, which make the audience think
  • Confrontational remarks
  • Relevant quotations for an acknowledged source
  • A good personal anecdote

The key to a good opening is to make people think; to wake them up and make them pay attention. 

For example, if you are an accountant and have to give a presentation on new tax laws, you could start by listing the main areas of taxation you will be covering. But most of your audience will probably be asleep before you have finished the introduction. An alternative, a more attention grabbing, opening might be to ask “Who has too much money?”, quickly followed by “So, why did most of you give too much to the tax man last year?  During my presentation you will discover how to reduce the amount of tax you will pay this year.”

While grabbing their attention is important, it is also important that the opening is in line with the rest of the presentation. I saw a video once, of a headmistress trying to introduce a police officer to the children at an American junior school’s assembly.  The children were all noisily chatting away to each other and the headmistress’s repeated requests for silence were being ignored. The lady police officer then tried to quieten them down with no success. So, she took out her revolver and fired a shot into the air.  There was instant silence. She had their attention, but when she then asked in her most child friendly voice “How are you all doing today?” There was an equally stony silence.

You only have one chance to make a first impression so it is worth thinking it through properly to work out the type of reaction it will generate.

Once you have grabbed your audience’s attention, keep them listening by telling them what they want to hear, rather than what you want to say. Finally, round off the presentation with a reference back to your attention grabber as part of the summary, in the “tell them what you told them part”.

When I worked for a company called Magic Software, we had a special 3 card trick made up which was very easy to do.  The gist of the trick was to show the audience 3 cards, two number cards with a court card in the middle.  Then turn the three cards over and ask a member to point to the court card.  When this card was turned back over, the court card had magically disappeared and in its place was a card that had a slogan for the company’s products.

I often used this particular trick at the start of a presentation.  It was great at breaking the ice.  It woke people up who thought they were going to get another vendor pitch and it had the added benefit that I could con one of the audience members in to reading out our slogan.  At the end of the presentation, I summed up using the slogan.  I could then say “and it is not just me who says that, you heard it earlier from one of your own”.  It was even better if I could get a competitor or a known industry figure to choose the card.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone starts every presentation with a magic trick, but it is one example of getting people involved and doing the unexpected.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever