Plan and deliver ― your preparation

“World class presentations require time and focus” ― Nancy Duarte

Rome wasn’t built in one day. Neither will you be able to create a good presentation in a few hours. Crafting a presentation ― yes, even a business or technical one ― is a creative process. A process that takes more than a PC with PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Prezi, or …) installed on it.

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As I wrote in my previous post, it all starts with finding your pitch: thinking about the story you want to tell, the messages you want to convey, and the results you want to obtain. So, don’t start creating a single slide before you have figured out WHAT you want to tell to WHOM, and HOW you’re are actually going to deliver it. Only then comes the ‘packaging’ of your content.

  • Always start with the end in mind. Take a blank sheet of paper and write down (no more than) three results you want to obtain from your presentation. What impressions do you want the people in the room to take home? What do you want them to remember about your product or service? What action do you want them to take after the meeting?
  • Then inventorize your assets: what facts and figures, anecdotes, trivia, case studies, experience, demos or prototypes, etc. do you have on hand that may help you achieve these objectives?
  • Based upon the outcome of the questions above, you may select the most suitable medium for delivering your content, e.g. a traditional slide presentation, a naked speech, maybe supported by video testimonials or — why not — a live demonstration. Note that your choice may also be influenced by the size and composition of your audience, the layout of the room, or the technical facilities you have on hand.
  • Make sure your talk has a begin, a middle and an end. Consider structuring it the AIDA way. As the first seconds of your performance are crucial for grabbing your audience’s attention, choose a catchy title and craft a powerful opening slide.
  • Think visual. Use images to communicate, not decorate. Translate concepts to visual metaphors. Look for compelling ways to conceptualize facts, processes and data. You won’t need artistic drawing skills; a bit of analytical sense and a good portion of creativity will certainly do.
  • Analyze. Surprise. Focus. Simplify. Cut the crap and don’t feed the chameleons. Keep your presentation short and sweet. And when you prepare slides, keep them clear, clean and consistent.
  • Practice makes perfect. Rehearse your presentation as often as needed. In front of your mirror, your family or your colleagues. Or use a video recorder to tape your performance.
  • But most of all, reserve ample time for your preparation. The time you invest in realizing, refining and rehearsing your presentation should be proportional to the importance of your talk, and reverse proportional to the time you will be given to present.

Next week, part 3 of the 3 P’s trilogy: about delivering your presentation. In, the mean time here’s more material to digest:

My name is Bond

In last week’s post, I provided the example of the notorious John Doe, who completely missed his opening and wasted the crucial first seconds of his presentation by delivering only small talk.

But, John also did one thing good: he introduced himself. But, as people in the room were not decided yet if they were going to pay attention to the speaker, he did it way too early. So, what is the best moment in a presentation to present yourself?

First of all, why (except for vanity reasons) should one talk about himself or herself in front of a public audience?

Because it’s an opportunity to show that you’re a person of interest, that you are an authority on the topic you are presenting and, consequently, that you have the “right to speak”. Make sure that you give a bit more argumentation than just saying “My name is Doe, John Doe” – this may work well for 007, but most probably not for you.

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And when is the most proper time to do so?

You should of course introduce yourself at a moment that makes sense for your presentation, for yourself and for the people in the room. As a best practice –and in full compliance with the AIDA structure– a good moment is somewhere in the first half of your presentation. Once you have caught the attention (“A”) of the people in the room and you have introduced the topic of your presentation, you can amplify their interest (“I”) by explaining that you are the expert they should listen to, and start creating desire (“D”) for whatever you are trying to teach, evangelize or sell to them. And finally call for their action (“A”) – shaken, not stirred.

An opera in four acts

If you’re planning to give a talk, and the only Aida you know is a four-act opera by Giuseppe Verdi, then it’s time to take a look at mindtools.com or to read Robert Plank’s blog and learn about this great methodology for structuring presentations.

As an example, here’s a short presentation (also in 4 acts) that I have composed to illustrate the AIDA principle (view it on SlideShare).

First act: In which I am grabbing my audience’s Attention by starting with e.g. a trivia fact, an intriguing quote or a provocative question.

AIDA_attentionDid you know that Verdi refunded the opera’s admission price to a student who wasn’t very impressed with Aida? The young guy even asked him to be reimbursed for the money he spent for food on the train, but Verdi admonished him that he could have eaten at home.

To make a bridge to the rest of the presentation, I would add a statement like “I hope that I won’t have to pay any one of you after this presentation,” and even offer some cookies to the audience…

Second act: Trying to make sure that I’ll get their Interest and time for listening to the rest of my presentation.

AIDA_interestThis is the moment to introduce the other AIDA and tell the public that this is a methodology that had made sense for (almost) every presentation I ever gave.

Third act: Creating a Desire by giving them some compelling details and examples to show the value of my proposition.

AIDA_desireNote that there’s a variant of AIDA, AIDEA, where the “E” stands for Evidence. In this additional act there’s opportunity to further elaborate on proof points, case studies and facts & figures.

Fourth act: The grand finale. Calling for Action, to make sure that the people in the room are ready for taking a next step with me or my company. In this case, I am taking the opportunity to shamelessly promote my blog ;-)

AIDA_actionAs it’s always wise to summarize at the end: AIDA is an acronym that is easy to remember, and –even better– a technique that works with (almost) every story you want to tell.