In last week’s blog post I gave you My Five Top Tips for Presenting with Pizzazz. In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to zero in on the details. Today, I’ll focus on the fourth tip, Structure the Presentation around Your Key Message.
We human beings have the capacity to think about many things, but to concentrate on only a few at a time. It’s a common mistake to offer up so many “key points” in a presentation that the audience can’t take it all in. That’s why effective presentations will often have just three or five or seven points, and that’s where I recommend you land when structuring your presentation.
Notice, at this point I’m talking about the preparation and creation stage. By the time you actually present your message, the number of key points doesn’t need to be obvious to your audience unless you choose to make it so. But if you use this structure as you put your talk together it will not only make your task easier, but the end result will be much more effective.
I recently worked with a client on the visual aids for a day-long seminar he was presenting to a group of senior executives. It was full of excellent material, but there was an awful lot of it! He admitted to me later that although it was well received, he realized he had tried to cram too much into the day. It would have been better not to try to cover everything, but to focus on just the most important ideas.
Of course, sometimes it’s hard to know what to take out. My tip on this is to begin with the most important points, and when you have the requisite three or five or seven, keep the rest of the material for your question and answer time. If it’s really important to the audience, their questions will reflect that and you will have your opportunity to discuss it then. If they don’t even ask about it, perhaps it wasn’t as important as you thought.
Choosing the most important points
I like to begin by defining my target, or objective, for the presentation. What do I want to achieve at the end? What do I want my audience to do, understand, think or feel as a result of my presentation? I distill this down to the following:
“At the end of this presentation, I want ….”
and I complete the sentence as specifically as possible. In your case, that might be something like “At the end of this presentation, I want the Managing Partner to give me the go-ahead to begin the project”, or “At the end of this presentation, I want the prospect to agree to a second meeting where I will present my proposal for the business”. Do you see how specific these are?
Next I write my objective on a yellow Post It™ note and stick it on my computer screen where I can see it as I work on my content.
When I’m struggling with whether or not to include a point, I ask myself if it will move me towards my objective. If the answer is yes, it goes in. If not, it doesn’t. Simple as that.
Ask for what you want
If you’ve delivered your message around the key points that move you towards your objective, your audience may well be ready to agree. This is not guaranteed, of course, but there’s a good chance. Don’t make the classic mistake of not taking them over the edge into their decision. In traditional sales terms, this is called asking for the order.
Let’s say you’ve taken your best shot with your presentation to the new prospect. You’ve highlighted the three top benefits they can get from hiring you. They’ve asked questions and you’ve answered them to their apparent satisfaction. Your objective is to get the next meeting, and this is the time to ask for it. Here’s some suggested wording:
“From what we’ve discussed this morning, I’m confident I can help you achieve your goals. Would it be helpful to you if I put my specific ideas together, and come back to present them to you in a few days — say on Tuesday afternoon?”
Of course, Tuesday afternoon may not work for them, but now you have the basis for discussion of when the next meeting will be, which meets your objective for your presentation.
Next week I’ll focus on another of my tips to add pizzazz to your presentation.