Creating Focused Presentations
Before giving any presentation, it’s important to know the audience you are going to deliver it to. Even if you already have a specific presentation that you’ve created, it’s important to always understand who the audience is that you’ll be presenting to and adjust your presentation accordingly. But, if you have a certain audience in mind before creating the presentation, all the better.
Your audience wants to know answers to key questions, mainly “What’s in it for me?” You need your presentation to answer why this is important, what it means to the audience, who you are to tell this, and who cares about it, why they care about it, and what exactly your audience is to do about it.
In order to come up with a focused presentation, it’s important to come up with a focused topic. All presentations start with a brain dump. Dump out everything you know about the topic in question. Don’t worry about whether it’ll stay in the final presentation or not, or that it’s too detailed right now – just let it all out so that you can look at it.
One helpful way to do this is to locate pictures, or actually print out the information that you have on the subject and throw it all together in a pile as a visual reference point. Another way is to create a mind map of the information. However you choose to do it, get all the information you know about the topic out in some form.
After you’ve emptied the kitchen sink, it’s time to get it into some form of organization. Usually, this is called an outline. Try to visually put all the information you have about the topic in some sort of order, either by importance of the facts or chronologically. Do whatever feels right to you. Don’t worry yet whether something will stay in the presentation or be cut. Just get it into an order.
It can be very helpful to do this without the computer for some people. If you printed out pictures, or information, you can arrange it in order physically. You can also put each topic on a note card and pin them to a pin board so that you can see how it looks visually organized. As you’re doing this, it’s likely you’re starting to identify extraneous information that takes away from your core point which is for the audience “What’s in it for me?”
Now that you’ve organized everything, it’s time to bring focus to the presentation. First, know what you want to be the outcome of your presentation. You have a specific goal in mind for the presentation. You have specific actions you want your audience to take. Your audience has specific needs that should be addressed. Take out anything that doesn’t add to these goals. Ask yourself if each point of your presentation addresses the core message you’re trying to deliver. If it does, keep it; if it does not throw it out.
If you know your audience, you’ll know their blocks to taking action. Be sure to answer those blocks during your presentation. You should also know your audience’s values, and if you can link their fears and values to your presentation you’ll be more likely to get action.
Take out any information from the presentation that makes the audience feel stupid, such as defining words they already know. Leave in educational information if your audience needs it. This is why knowing your audience is an essential element in creating focused presentations.
Everything is better with practice. Literally, stand up and deliver your presentation as if you’re in front of your audience. If you can, get a focus group together to help you practice.
Finally, it’s time to deliver your presentation. If you are using something like PowerPoint to create the visuals for your presentation, try to avoid the typical bullet point-ridden boring templates that most people use. Instead, consider using photos, quotes, stats, and lots of whitespace to give your audience a focal point but not a distraction from the words that you are speaking.
It’s important that you find a way to relate to your audience right away. You can do that through the way you dress, your mannerisms, and your words. If you’ve done your due diligence and studied your audience and created a presentation that focuses on your core audience’s needs in regard to the topic at hand, you’ll do great.
Remember that a presentation is like any other content; it should be narrowly focused toward a specific audience, taking into consideration their particular problems and provide a solution to a problem they have.