The preparation for any successful meeting or presentation starts the moment the date gets marked on the calendar. That’s when the real work begins.
Determine Your Goal
First, establish your goal for the presentation. What are you trying to achieve? You are most likely making a presentation to persuade your audience to take some sort of action. For an internal audience, it could be to approve a product launch or next year’s budget. For an external audience, you might want them to sample or buy your services.
Determine the profile and information needs of your audience. Be sure to discuss this with your conference organizer. Armed with this information, you will highlight the long-term and short-term benefits early in your presentation. Anticipate objections and be ready with the solutions that will turn a no into a yes.
It always amazing when speakers don’t ask the meeting organizer questions about the audience in advance of writing their presentations. Let’s start with the most obvious ones:
- Who are they and how were they selected to be participants?
- How many are attending?
- What are their reporting lines?
- What attitude might they have towards you or your organization?
- What are their work backgrounds, social backgrounds and education level?
- What does the meeting organizer expect from you?
- What does the audience expect from you?
- Will there be a Q&A?
- Will the speaker be standing or seated?
- Will there be a lectern?
- What kind of sound system will be available?
- Will they record the presentation for your use only?
Time, Date and Place
This sounds almost too obvious to mention. But be sure you have marked the correct time, date and place on your calendar. Find out who else is speaking that day and their topics. You don’t want to duplicate their content. We’ve all been at conferences where the unlucky last speaker began his presentation with, “Well, Mr. Jones just gave my speech!”
Ask who will introduce you. Then, ask if you can write your introduction, keeping it short and highlighting your benefits to build positive feelings about you before you even start to speak.
Find out how much time you have and don’t exceed it. Nothing will alienate an internal client or conference organizer more than that – except not delivering on the topic you promised!
In a future post, we will discuss how to inform, persuade and entertain your audience during the presentation.