You open your email and read that you’ve been selected to give an executive presentation to the board on the project you’ve been a part of for the past year. As your stomach sinks to the bottom of your chair, you frantically move your mouse to the PowerPoint icon.

But before you open PowerPoint to start creating slides, following these four tips might prevent embarrassment to you and your whole team, or worse, the fallout and dismissal from a board that doesn’t connect with the results you hope to present.

1. Who is the audience, and why does it matter to them?

Before you begin any presentation, you must have a solid understanding of your audience. A good understanding will allow you to easily wrestle with the question of “why does this matter to them?” Presentations are about connecting with your audience in a truly meaningful way. If you don’t understand what your audience’s fears, hopes, and goals are, your presentation will not reach your desired outcome. Your information might be valuable, but if it’s not in the right context for your audience, it’s just data. Making it matter is the foundation of a good presentation.

2. What is my goal in delivering this information?

What is the one thing you want your audience to take away from this presentation? This is the goal of your presentation and with that clearly defined you can move on to the messages that support the goal. The danger in not having a clear goal is that you end up presenting a mountain of information, yet no outcome is ever reached on why all of it is so important. Your audience doesn’t get it, and they become confused and exhausted quickly.  We call the goal your “billboard”. It’s the message they pass over and over during the course of your presentation making sure they connect with the intent of the message.

3. What are your supporting messages?

If you’ve answered the last question well, then you’ve developed a goal for your presentation and now comes the work of supporting that goal with your message points. Your message points can take so many different forms, from compelling data and antidotes, to personal stories and relevant research. But no matter what messages you choose to present, they should all point back to your goal in a context that brings meaning and emotion to your audience. Great presenters seam together data and narrative to build a story that invokes the emotions of the audience. With a clear goal, you can put together the same level of presentation that engages and delights, while revisiting your main goal between message points. This logical dance will bring a natural flow to your presentation and be appreciated on deeper level by your audience.

4. How much time do I have?

We ask this question, simply because if you have less than ten minutes to present, you don’t need a PowerPoint. You’d be better off with an outline and remarks without visual support. Yet, if you have more than 45 minutes, you’ll reach the end of the normal human’s attention span, and need to add in some “sparklers” to reengage your audience. This could be a funny story, sidebar, or physical activity to bring attention back to your presentation.  Knowing your time will help you make the best use of it and choose your message points wisely.

Next Steps

If you have a looming presentation and you don’t feel prepared, our presentation training can help you take your presentation from failing to flying. Call us today to discuss our media training and prepare to present like never before!