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Presentation tip: ask “what changes?”

March 23, 2010

Earlier I defined ‘impact’ as getting the audience to understand, remember and act. In other words, presentation impact is about change. You may not think of it that way, so give me a shot at convincing you.

We usually define the purpose of our presentation without using that word but I think that’s a mistake. And it’s a mistake that can lead to presentations that have a lot less impact than they should.  Here’s how I think about this.

Start with a focus on the audience and assume success–you did have impact. Then ask how the audience is different when the presentation is over:Question mark emerging from box.

  • What will they know that they didn’t ?
  • How will they feel that’s different ?
  • What did I persuade or inspire them to do ?

But change isn’t necessarily just about them. It may be that one reason for the presentation is to create change in you, the presenter. Or, as it often happens to me, change happens to me whether I wanted it or not.  Either way, I often get interesting insights by also turning those questions around:

  • What do I know that’s new ?
  • What am I going to do as a result of the presentation ?
  • How do I want to feel at the end of it ?

Understanding all three presentation elements: audience, purpose and content is crucial to your success.  I often struggle to clearly and simply define my presentation’s purpose.  But it’s crucial because I’ve seen too many presentations fail simply because the audience never did get “the point” of it all.

I’ve found, however, that asking “what changes,” can really help me understand it and be able to relate it to the audience.

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