Answering These 5 Questions Will Guarantee You a More Convincing Presentation
We’ve all sat through presentations. Some were good, some were not-so-good, and some were mind-blowing and memorable. Aside from theatrics and amazing magic tricks, there are few very basic things you can do ensure your presentation is solid, sound and convincing to your audience. If you can answer these five questions for your audience, you can guarantee yourself at least a passing grade in your next presentation.
Why Am I (Are You) Here? – Many times people begin making a presentation, but do not even explain why the participants are in the room. Before getting knee-deep into fancy PowerPoint slides, take a minute to explain the need for the discussion. Perhaps you need a decision to be made. Maybe you need the audience’s feedback on a matter. Or perhaps you are simply trying to create awareness. Regardless of the reason, be sure to clearly state it.
In a similar manner, if you are a speaker at a conference, take a minute to introduce your credentials. The audience is there to learn and benefit, but make sure you give them a couple reasons to stick around and listen to you rather than head out to make a phone call.
Why is This Important? – Similar to the previous question, be sure to make it abundantly clear for the audience why their attendance, the topic and the overall discussion is important. Talk about the impact of the decision you’re asking them to make. Discuss the background or the problems that have occurred. Draw the conclusion for the audience and avoid leaving things to interpretation.
When you are setting up a meeting with a group of individuals, don’t forget that you’re asking them for their precious time (and giving up some of your own). Ensuring they understand the reason for the discussion and its necessity will ensure they are fully vested and attentive.
Do You Have Data to Back Up Your Position? – When making a persuasive argument or delivering a proposal to take a given action, it’s always best have data or objective evidence to support your position. Even if you are presenting to a room full of your firm’s executives, by putting data and information in front of them shows you are using information, rather than a bias, to make a decision.
Keep in mind that data is data. In many cases, the data does not need to be based on extensive research you conducted, but can simply be based on a simple set of examples and historical trends that are widely accepted. For example, if you’re trying to convince the board to invest in developing a new product, you may not have specific market feedback (although it would obviously help). Instead, you may want to point to how your competitor increased sales by 25% since unveiling a similar product. Simply put, offer some sort of evidence and not just a hunch.
Are There Alternatives and Did You Consider Them? – When you are presenting information or a specific view point, it’s important to offer some alternatives. It is likely that the audience is considering those other options, so acknowledge they exist. Address them, discuss them and compare them openly
By doing so, you not only strengthen your own credibility by demonstrating you are fair and balanced, but you are also showing you have looked at other options and used the information available to you to make a recommendation that is best for all parties. It also allows the audience to ask questions and probe the comparison, which in turn, allows you to address them. Part of putting together a persuasive proposal or presentation is showing you are being objective and open with the data and options available to you.
So What’s Next? – In many cases, when you are presenting to a group of individuals, you are typically spending time with them to gain buy-in, approval or alignment. Regardless of the audience (superiors, clients, employees), it’s always best to close your presentation with Next Steps or something similar that helps cast a trajectory for the future.
Letting the audience know that there is more to come, or that you have a plan to meet a longer term objective helps solidify and strengthen your entire argument since it shows you have done your homework and are working towards a specific goal. Without including the next steps, you leave yourself open to criticism that your position or stance on the given topic is unclear or not fully developed.
In closing, there are many business settings in which we must put together a convincing argument to another party. By adequately and coherently answering these five questions, you can ensure your presentation is well developed and sound. Try it out next time and test your success!
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