Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two Rules for a Successful Presentation

I ran across some great advice on the Conversation Blog of the Harvard Business Review. The post was Two Rules for a Successful Presentation Since small business owners frequently give presentations, it seemed worth repeating. What? You say you never give presentations? Think again. Business owners give presentations every time they talk to their customers or their bankers.

The rules by Nick Morgan, the President of Public Words Inc, are simple.
Rule One: Know Thy Audience.
Presentations are about their audiences, not their speakers. Before you write anything down, or commit anything to a Power Point slide, you must give some thought to your listeners.
This applies to more than presentations a the Rotary or Lions Club. The same thing applies whenever you talk to a customer. You have to understand the customer's needs before you can understand how to meet them and how to make the sale.

It is even harder to apply the lesson when talking to a banker about a loan. Business owners want to talk about their plans and why they need the money. All of that is important, but why it is important becomes obvious in the context of "Know Thy Audience." The banker wants to know that he will be paid back. So when you make your presentation asking for a loan, remember why you are talking about your business.
Rule Two: Tell Them One Thing, and One Thing Only
This is a difficult rule for most presenters to follow. But it's essential. The oral genre is highly inefficient. We audience members simply don't remember much of what we hear. We're easily sidetracked, confused, and tricked. We get distracted by everything from the color of the presenter's tie to the person sitting in the next row to our own internal monologues.
This one, according to Morgan, is difficult. When speakers get up in front of an audience, they want to talk about everything they know. We've all been to presentations where the speaker keeps listing so many examples that we forgot the original point.

These two rules presented by Morgan should remind us of a couple of other public speaking terms. WIFM and KISS. Keep in mind that your audience often has a simple question, and you can give them the answer. The question? "What's In it For Me?" When you give them the answer Keep It Short and Simple.

Click on the title to read the origninal post by Nick Morgan.

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