Planning an effective presentation
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This study guide offers you an insight into the process of planning an effective presentation. It focuses on the importance of the presenter’s relationship with the audience and suggests key strategies for making an impact.
Other Useful Guides: Delivering an effective presentation, Using visual aids.
What is a effective presentation?
A effective presentation makes the best use of the relationship between the presenter and the audience. It takes full consideration of the audience’s needs in order to capture their interest, develop their understanding, inspire their confidence and achieve the presenter’s objectives.
Careful planning is essential.
Seven stages in planning a presentation
Many factors affect the design of your presentation. A powerful presenter will acknowledge and address each of the following:
Why you are making your presentation? Bear in mind what you want to achieve and what you want your audience to take away with them. Once you have decided upon your objectives, you are in a much better position to make strategic decisions about the design and tone of your presentation. For example, a presentation to a seminar group might require a balanced
argument, whereas a charity appeal might require a more creative approach. Ask yourself:
Your audience will have a variety of different experiences, interests and levels of knowledge. A powerful presenter will need to acknowledge these and prepare for and respond to them accordingly. Ask yourself:
You may not be able to answer these questions for each member of your audience but you should have enough information to ensure that you have targeted your material at the right level for their needs. This might involve avoiding technical jargon or explaining abstract concepts with clear practical examples. If you fail to consider your audience’s needs, you will fail to appeal to their interest and imagination.
Where will you be making your presentation? What will the room be like? What
atmosphere will the physical conditions create? A large lecture theatre might create a formal atmosphere. Similarly, a seminar room might create a less formal tone. Ask yourself:
You may well have been given a remit for your presentation; you will need to stick to this. For example, you may have been asked to present a paper at a conference in a certain style or meet certain assessment criteria on your course. Ask yourself:
Once you have thought about the design of your presentation, you can define your main points. Try presenting no more than three main points in a ten minute presentation. Always allow time for an adequate introduction and conclusion. It is difficult for an audience to follow a more complex argument without significant help from the presenter. A powerful presentation delivers information in a logical, structured manner, building on the previous point and avoiding large jumps in sequence. Ask yourself:
The supporting information helps your audience understand, believe in and agree with your main points. This evidence might take the form of factual data, points of detail or an explanation of process. It might be presented in imaginative ways using diagrams, pictures or video segments. Think about:
The next stage is to develop the linear flow of your presentation. This can be achieved by using linking statements to show clearly how your main points fit together. Common linking statements include:
Linking statements send signals to your audience, highlighting the next point in your argument, linking to earlier ideas or clarifying the stage you have reached in your argument overall. This may be of particular importance in a lengthy presentation where even the most effective presenter has to work hard to keep an audience involved.
The introduction to your presentation is crucial. It is your first point of contact with your audience; you can either capture or lose your audience’s interest in a matter of seconds. Use your introduction to lay a clear foundation for the presentation to follow. Try using the following structure:
Always give your audience a moment to absorb this information before moving into your first main point.
Your conclusion is another important stage in your presentation. You can use it to remind your audience of your main points, draw these points to a stimulating conclusion and leave your audience with a lasting impression of the quality of your presentation. The following structure provides a powerful conclusion:
Once you have written your presentation make sure that you review its content. Ask yourself:
The next study guide in this series, Delivering a effective presentation explores the process of speaking in public and discusses the need for lively interaction between the presenter and the audience.
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