7 Questions to ask when creating a presentation

One of the hardest aspects of developing a new presentation is deciding where to start. To help you I have 7 questions that you should ask yourself, or the others around you, which will help to define and structure your presentation.

These questions come from a summary of the answers I received from a question I posed on LinkedIn to a group of professional presenters, and I would like to thank everyone who responded to my question " What three questions do you ask yourself when you create a presentation?"

Let us start with an assumption that you know roughly what the presentation will be about. The questions to ask, starting with probably the most important question of all are:

1.   Who is my audience and what do they care about?

The more you know about you audience the better. How many of them will there be? What do they know about this topic already? How receptive to your ideas will they be? What are the demographics and psychographics of the audience likely to be?

The number one question that the audience members will be asking themselves is: WIIFM? (Whatís In It For Me?). After you have created the presentation, go through each and every part of it and ask " Why is this bit important to my audience?" If you donít have a clear answer, then change the presentation.

2.   What is the goal of the presentation and how will I measure the success in meeting that goal?.

Your goal should be relatively short term, so that when you measure how well you achieved it, you can still remember how the presentation went. Think about the goal in terms of " What do you want your audience to do as a result of the presentation?" " What would everyone do in an ideal world?" . The more quantitative these actions are the better.

A secondary question, once you have established your objective is " What call to action shall I use at the end of the presentation to reinforce this objective and encourage people to meet my goals?"   The last thing you should say before you sit down is your call to action, which tells people how to meet your objective.

3.   What pain does this presentation cure and how do I express or get the audience to feel that pain in the opening?

A well established principle of the solution selling approach is that without pain, there is no change. If people are completely happy with the way things are they will never feel the need to change. In order to create a need for change you have to expose the need, which is mostly commonly done by exposing the pain. As business presentations are invariably promoting some form of change you need to establish a case for change early on in the presentation.

Highlighting only the pains can leave a sour taste in the mouth, so ensure you also paint the vision of success, i.e. what it will be like once that pain has gone away.

4.   What would potential objections be to my message and how do I overcome such objections?

If there are likely to be any potential objections then you are far better tackling them head on rather than trying to skirt round them. Thinking of the three worst questions you could be asked and formulating a response to those questions will boost your confidence and give your presentation a more rounded feel.

5.   How can I make my messages memorable?

All too often presentations are listened to and then quickly forgotten. You need to think about how you can make it memorable. Think about where your passion lies in this topic, devise ways to make your audience think about the subject. After all the more people do the more they understand.

Your visual aids can also help to get your message fixed in their memory. Use creative imagery that creates a strong mental image, rather than the ubiquitous text bullets.

6.   How much time to they have to spend with me?

There is nothing worse than running out of time or running overtime. Establish up front how much time you have for the presentation and then ensure you take 10% less.

7.   How will I grab their attention at the start?

There is little point in giving a presentation if your audience are not listening. Right at the start you need to grab their attention and make them think about the subject to hand. The reaction you are looking for is a " Wow! I thought this would be good but this is going to be great! I really need to give it my full attention!"

Answer these 7 questions and your presentation should be practically complete.

Thanks to everyone who contributed by answering my questions on LinkedIn. You can see the original questions and answers here


And here.


Finally, if answering all 7 questions seems a bit too much for you then there is another approach to presentation development promoted by David Eastman, of Chicago which I think deserves a mention. It is:

    1. What's up?

    2. So what?

    3. Now what?

As David says " Those are the three subliminal questions most participants have when attending any presentation. I structure every presentation around those three questions so the participants understand my main points (and the problems or situations to which they apply), why those points are important, and then how to apply the information they just received."

All the very best with your future presentations.

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