Feb 17, 2009

The Most Important Thing in a Presentation

What is the most important thing in a presentation?

The content, the delivery or the design (the slides).

Have you ever pondered over this question before starting to make a presentation? Let's take an example. You are a business development manager and you are going to present to a prospective client. What's the one most important thing in your presentation?

It is not the content, the design or the delivery.

Realising what's most important will help you shape up the entire presentation.

You would know what to write (content), how to write (design) and how to talk (delivery).
If you need to cut excess content, you would know exactly what to chop off.

The most important element in every presentation is the objective.
For the business development manager, its getting the account, the business.
Sounds common sense? It is not as simple as it seems.

I often come across presenters who miss the woods for the trees.
They miss the bigger picture. They keep worrying about whether to write X or Y, whether to present it this way or that way... They know the objective but forget to give it the importance it deserves.

This post asks all presenters to focus on that most important element; 'the objective'.

Before you start making the presentation, ask yourself what the objective is.
The answer is not straight forward. It's not always obvious. If there are multiple objectives, focus on the most important one.

Real life example: I recently made a sales presentation for a client. They sell a high-involvement product and the sales team was not able to communicate the product's USP (unique selling proposition) to the prospects very well. They were also unable to deliver the complete sales pitch to the prospects.

It was a sales presentation but the objective was not to close the sale. This presentation was the initial pitch and the objective was to deliver the correct and complete sales pitch to the prospect highlighting the USP. It was to make the prospect ask the right questions; to get them interested.

Once you are clear that the objective is 'highlighting the USP and making the prospect interested' you can now choose appropriate content and create a good presentation. Had the objective been closing a sale, the presentation would have been very different.

Once you know what your objective is, content, design and delivery will automatically fall in place.
So, the next time you start conceptualising your presentation, take out time and zero in on the objective. The very reason you are taking the pain to make the presentation.

Remember: Everything that you can achieve is not the objective. Objective is the one thing you have to achieve.

Share this thought with people who make a lot of presentations.

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