We’ve all sat through long presentations that left us wondering how to get that fraction of our lives back. You know, those “FYI” presentations that are often more self aggrandizing than informative. During this economic downturn, I have seen an increased number of internal company business communications that have made me wonder who the target audience is and “why am I listening to this update?”. I’m often surprised that presentations are delivered without a clear goal in mind and a specific request. “FYI” presentations are sometimes appropriate, but should almost always be at the request of the audience. Presentations should usually have an expectation of action or decision.
Presenters should answer a few questions before they even build their story:
1) Who is the audience for this presentation?
2) What do you want to happen as a result of this presentation?
3) Are the right people in the audience to achieve the goals?
4) What is the action plan if you get your desired result?
5) What are the alternative results if you don’t achieve your goals and what is the action plan
These 5 questions are the key to a successful presentation. As the story is built you should revisit these questions to ensure that you do not wander from your goal.
One VP of a large networking company that I know told me that if these questions aren’t clearly defined in a presentation he won’t add the presenter to his meeting agenda. He frustrates many people that are looking for “visibility” but I thought it was a great way to protect his, and his meeting attendees, time. This ensures that a group is focused on making decisions but also protects the credibility of the presenters. Think about what you thought of the last “FYI” presentation. Most likely you questioned the focus of the people involved. I know I do.
My friend read the above screed and said that he could tell I’d sat through way to many of these lately and that these guidelines are things that people just know but forget. I disagree. I’ve been coaching people on their presentations and they don’t know to define their goals. Presentations seem to be an end unto themselves rather than the reporting of a situation or project with a request for decision. That’s the problem.
Have you had these experiences? What have you done in your business to guide the right behaviors?