Do you know what luck is? It’s the intersection of opportunity and preparation. I love to conceptualise, design, and deliver a proper public speech. Regardless of whether it’s presentation of a new idea, sharing experiences or making sales – when given the chance, I can work on it overnight without ever getting tired. Each of these events enables me to change something and, possibly, inspire others to follow. So that’s opportunity. How about the second ingredient? Preparing for a presentation is a huge deal, with several iterations of rehearsals and updates. But there are things you should really take into consideration before you even start anything.
Behold, the Pentagon of Presentations.
- The goal. Why are you doing this? What is the specific action you want your audience to take? It should be very specific, leaving as little ambiguity as possible. Bad example would be: make the world a better place. All the options possible dilute it to homeopathic ratios, making it completely useless. A good example: make the world a better place by smiling in the rain. Just like this. Simple. Actionable. Easy.
- The WIIFM, or What’s in It for Me. That’s the question everyone about to attend is asking themselves. And you’d better get a good answer! If you don’t give them something, in a very explicit way, they’ll find their own. Odds of these being in line with your concept are not optimistic. People invest their time to watching you talk, time they will never get back, time they can surely spend doing something beneficial – make sure you’ve earned it.
- Your point of view. How do you feel about the topic? Is it a mere technicality or something you’re genuinely excited about? Are you an expert in it or just heard something cool and want to share? Rest assured, the latter is fine – as long as you don’t pretend otherwise. If you’re honest with yourself, answers to all such questions will give you a hint and better understanding of how to approach different parts of your show.
- The venue and all its technicalities. It took me quite a long time to appreciate this one, but it can be critical. If you’re using dark slides, they will be harder to see if the place is only dimmed. Using flipchart in a place larger than few by few metres will leave most of your audience blind to whatever you’re drawing. Even in modern venues, the overhead projector can be surprisingly outdated and unable to display your widescreen slides properly. Understand the geometry of the place before you start to work on your speech. Myself, I had quite a few close shaves with the venues, including all the cases above.
- Last but not least, the audience. What is their demographics? Age, gender distribution, interests, occupation, experience, cultural background… and many, many more. In most cases, you can approximate these factors good enough to avoid common pitfalls. It’s also OK to ask the event organizers – if they don’t know that, I would seriously reconsider taking part in the event altogether.
I strongly advise you to figure these all out before you start working on the contents. You will only have a single chance with this specific audience, in their specific context, with your specific approach. Every other take will simply be different so…
Make it count.