So, you’ve been polishing up your presentation techniques by working on your delivery, knowing your audience, sorting out your structure, clarifying your objective, using stories and sorting out your PowerPoint. Phew. But no rest for us! What’s next?
The sixth characteristic identified in my research on effective presentation techniques is having an introduction that includes the aim (or objective). This is about making it clear from the very beginning of the presentation ‘what’s in it for them’ – putting the value of your message right up front in order to answer the question: why should they listen? This is sometimes called a ‘hook’ for reasons I guess are obvious
Presentation Techniques: So what?
The idea is that the opening of your presentation should include:
- the aim or objective
- the importance of your message and
- a preview of the main points
Most importantly your introduction should, from the get-go, answer the audience question; ‘So what?’ How I apply this in practice, usually after I’ve begun with some ‘big picture’ scene setting, is to ask the rhetorical questions ‘But so what? What does this have to do with me?’ (Along with being a neat way of introducing the aim, I’m working on the basis I’m that this is exactly what a fair number of the audience are thinking). Of course, having posed the question you’ve got to come up with a pretty sensible response. Let’s try an example:
I might begin a presentation on the importance of giving our staff feedback by quoting some statistics as the big picture scene setting (particularly if I’m working with people who I know, from my audience research, have a liking for numbers or research). So I might say:
Recent research has shown that whilst 46% of managers say they are giving feedback on performance, only 17% of staff agree. In another survey 53% of staff who said their boss gave them praise for excellent performance said the feedback did not give them enough information to help them repeat that excellent performance and 65% of those who received criticism said they did not have enough information to help them correct the issue
I’ll then need to go on to the key question
Interesting isn’t it? But so what? What’s this got to do with you?
Well, if we have
- 29% of the managers in this survey presumably giving feedback that their staff member is just not hearing and
- 53% of managers giving praise that doesn’t build upon excellent performance and
- 65% of managers giving criticism that doesn’t improve performance
then maybe – at least some of the time – we too may be giving feedback that is just not being heard? Or if it is heard, it’s not useful enough to be acted upon?
To state the obvious, we give praise for excellent performance so that our staff can have the information they need to repeat that excellent performance. We give criticism so that our staff have the information they need to improve their performance. If we are anything like the managers in the surveys (and I’m guessing, statistically, that some of us must be) then we can safely say that some of our feedback is literally just a waste of breath
The aim of this presentation is to help you make sure that you aren’t wasting your breath when you’re giving feedback. I’m here to share some tools and techniques with you that you can use to ensure you are giving the type of feedback on performance that your staff hear, understand, accept – and, most importantly, that gets results
So, that’s an example of how to use ‘so what?’ as a way of describing the aim of your presentation along with highlighting the value-added message. Now, of course, it’s unlikely you’ll be giving a presentation on feedback techniques and maybe you won’t want to use statistics or research in your introduction but I’d recommend you give the ‘so what?’ question (and the answer!) some thought when you’re preparing your presentation. If nothing else, it should help you to really clarify how your message adds value to your audience
Presentation Techniques: Summary
Another argument for including in the introduction the aim is based on the principle of the primacy and recency effect; the concept that audiences remember the first and last thing they hear in the presentation. It makes some sense, then, to have your key message (the aim) right up front (in my example the key message is that staff need useful information in order for feedback to impact performance). Of course it’s also important to repeat the key message again at the end
Presentation Techniques: Want to Know More?
If you would like to know how I can help you, your team or your business use research-based tools and techniques to improve your presentations just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org