The evening before his presentation, another conference presenter confessed to me that his presentation was boring. He asked for my help to improve his presentation. We chatted over wings and beer while watching the hockey game.
I asked him to clarify the purpose of this presentation. That’s the first place for you to start when designing, reviewing and adapting your presentation. That’s also how you should measure the success of your presentation.
He paused briefly to think about that, then started to ramble. I smiled and cut him off. “What do you want people to think, feel or do after your presentation?” I could see the light bulb go on in his mind.
His organization had prepared a comprehensive report that could be very helpful to this audience of entrepreneurs and others like them. The audience could save or make a lot of money after reading this report. His organization planned to sell this report – but first they needed two things: constructive feedback and supportive testimonials about the report.
So he was offering to email a free copy of the report to anyone in the audience who wanted it if they agreed to provide constructive or supportive comments about the report.
I suggested that he focus his presentation on why the audience should know the questions and answers in this report. Reinforce the message that successful business owners might not know all the answers – but they need to know the right questions to ask. This report had both.
He listened well, went back to his room and adapted his presentation. The next day he shortened his presentation and focused his message as we had discussed. He did one other thing that helped. He told a personal story of a past failure he experienced when running this business because he did not know the right questions to ask – the same questions answered in this report. He made all these changes in his presentation overnight. When you are focused on your purpose it’s easier and faster to prepare an effective presentation.
After his presentation he was delighted to tell me that he had close to a 100% sign-up rate for the report. By his definition of purpose that made his presentation a smashing success.
I should have asked him to pay for the beer and wings.
Do you want to make your presentations more successful? Be clear on the purpose of your presentation and focus your message around that purpose. In most cases the purpose is to persuade people to action. State your purpose in terms of “I want people to”
One more thing, include a personal anecdote. The short story that this presenter used was effective because he admitted a personal failure. He didn’t portray himself as perfect. The best personal stories are the ones that reveal your human (imperfect) side.