The Most Important Part Of Your Presentation

When you are giving your presentation, you might think that you need to include color, or maybe animation in your PowerPoint, or making sure you are making eye contact.

Now all of these aspects of presenting are important, but there is one key component to presenting that is the most important. And this is…

Knowing what you want as the result of your presentation

If you’re presenting technical research, do you want your audience to agree with your conclusions? Or do you just want to have them agree that you’re making progress?

In front of a potential customer, do you want them to hand you money on the spot? Or do you want to schedule another meeting to discuss terms?

If you’re demonstrating a new technology, do you want your audience to like your technology, or do you want them to buy your technology (these aren’t necessarily the same thing)?

In front of a government agency, do you want them to grant your project approval? Or do you want them to deny a project you oppose?

Knowing your desired outcome is, by far, the most important part of your presentation. Knowing your outcome lays out exactly what your presentation should be about, how it should be constructed, what it should focus on, and how it should be delivered.

When you try to put together your presentation without clearing knowing what your desired outcome should be is like getting into your car and driving without knowing the place to where you are driving.

You could focus on good driving skills, such as keeping your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, or not tailgating, or using your turn signal appropriately, but you may have driven someplace you didn’t want to end up (although you will have driven there quite well…).

Similarly, if you focus on the tactics and techniques of presenting, but pay little attention to what you’re presenting and why, then you’ll finish your presentation with the audience enjoying your style and commending you as a presenter, but they won’t respond the way you had hoped. (Unless, of course, your goal is to be considered a good presenter, but that’s certainly putting you ahead of your message…)

Again, what do you want to accomplish with your presentation, and what is your desired outcome? Knowing the answer to this question means you clearly understand the goal of the presentation, and then you can craft the presentation itself toward achieving that goal. However, without this answer, you may go into the presentation with a description of what you did or what your company is about or… and never guide your audience toward your desired outcome.

When you are presenting, you are delivering a message and you want your audience to hear the message you are trying to convey, not some other message that comes out instead. Clearly understanding your desired outcome helps to align your chosen message with the message that is actually heard by your audience.

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.