Every time you have to give a presentation, naturally you want it to be successful – after all, that’s why you’re delivering it, right? You want it to hit the right spot and be a homerun with the audience and have your big idea or important news passed on.
Thinking about this, you don’t want to leave things to chance and decide to put the effort into crafting the presentation and practice how you’re going to deliver it – what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
But before you do any of that, make sure to also first put in the time to think & understand your presentation properly. There are four key aspects of a presentation that you’ll always have to consider and think through first and foremost (before any kind of design & content), and how well you do this determines whether your presentation will be a hit or miss.
It’s just like when building a house – no matter how fancy the interior finishes are, if it doesn’t have a solid foundation, it can collapse.
1. Audience Profile
This is the first step and it’s the most important one – for any kind of presentation, this is where you always start from: understanding your audience!
Start simple, by mapping out audience profiles in terms of demographics, but then try and go a bit deeper and try and understand who they are: what’s their professional, what are their responsibilities, what are their daily struggles and so on, depending on what’s relevant to your presentation topic.
Nancy Duarte, Principal of Duarte Design and author of “Slideology”, recommends asking 7 questions to know your audience and build an audience persona slide to place at the front of your presentation.
2. Presentation Goals
Now that you have a good understanding of your audience, it’s time to have a good understanding of the “Why?” of your presentation: Why this presentation?
Asking and answering yourself questions like these help with this part:
- What are my goals with this presentation?
- What do I want to get out of this?
- What do I want my audience to do after this presentation is finished?
Having a clear intention on your presentation goals, coupled with understanding your audience, basically helps you to find the best narrative and the most compelling call to action.
But remember the first part of understanding your audience and don’t forget them. Ask yourself also “Why should your audience care about your presentation?” or more simply put – “What’s in it for them?”. Finding the answer to this question will help you make sure your presentation will be relevant.
3. Presentation Context
Another important thing to know and understand is the context of your presentation, meaning where, when and how it will be actually delivered.
For example, if it’s a presentation that you are going to send by email and it is meant to be read by recipients, then your presentation will be more of a slideument.
As such, you have to make sure that the deck stands on its own and is self explanatory, without the need for you personally to take someone through the deck.That also means it is ok for this kind of presentation to have a bit more content than usual, for the text to be more descriptive and have some extra explainer images or graphics if needed.
If you’re going to present it yourself, then you have to know if it will be presented remote online or live at a location.
If it’s going to be presented live (eg: client meeting), then it has to be much lighter on content with more impactful visuals that complement your speech. In this case, you’ll also have to take into consideration the location in which you’ll present and find out information on:
- how large will the audience be?
- how big is the room in which you’re presenting and how is the audience seated in the room?
- how will the presentation be displayed: projector or large screen LCD?
- which computer will be used: your own on which you made the presentation or an external one where you have to transfer the files?
However, since nowadays, most presentations are held online, you have to adapt yours to this new medium as well. We wrote a detailed article about how you can do this: How to make an efficient remote presentation.
Finally, don’t forget about how much time you have and add just enough content so you can go through it properly but also include a time buffer (for example, if you have a 50min meeting, you could plan to have about 30min of the actual presentation, 10min for a short Q&A and 10min as an extra buffer).
4. Presentation Outline
All these previous points will basically help you to figure out what type of presentation you need, what’s the right structure to use, and how to build your narrative to be as persuasive as possible.
For example, if you’re talking with potential business partners that want to find out more about you, then most probably you’ll have to send them a company profile by email in which you give a high-level overview of what you do and the type of services or products you offer. You can find out more on what to include in a company profile here.
Or, if you’re meeting a potential new client online, you’ll have to give a presentation that addresses their needs and pain points first and how you can help solve them – in this case, you’ll build your presentation as a sales deck, in which you won’t go straight away to talk about yourself, but rather build the context first (of the market and your client) and then show how you meet their needs.
Regardless of the type of presentation, you’ll have to do, taking the time to think through these four elements will dramatically increase your chances of delivering a great one that will truly resonate with your audience.