How to Ensure Your Presentation is Perfectly Balanced

Balancing Your Presentations

I’m going to show my age here but do any of you remember the singer Val Doonican? He would always wear big cuddly jumpers and sit on a three legged stool with his guitar on his leg.

Now if I were sitting on his stool right now about to present, I would hope that the three legs are firm, secure and of the same length.

Otherwise the stool will collapse and I’ll bomb.

Now when you’re presenting, imagine that you have to sit on this stool for the entire session. I bet you hope that your stool is robust enough to carry you through. So let’s get this stool robust enough.

You see the three legs of the stool must be perfectly balanced otherwise the presentation will fail. Full stop.

Leg one is the objectives of your presentation, leg two is the time and leg three, your audience. Are they in balance is the question to ask yourself before every presentation.

Objectives
Onto leg number one – the objectives should be clear. You’ve probably heard of SMART objectives, which is a very useful acronym on how to structure any business objective but what I want you to do is to switch the focus. Away from you and to your audience, who are actually more important than you. It’s not what you want to achieve…it’s what the audience want to get out of listening to you talk.

My experience has shown that business presentation audiences want to do one of three things. As a result of listening to you, they want to:

  • Be able to do something, or
  • Understand something, or
  • Agree to do something.

Naturally your talk might want to help them do a few of these objectives but you do have to be very careful in not trying to achieve too much. The last objective, agree to do something, might only happen if an earlier understanding objective is achieved and it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the whole audience to commit to do something.

Audience
Leg number two is the audience. The audience is king, and should be put up there on the throne. How much time to you spend researching your audience:

  • Who they are?
  • Why are they attending?
  • What time of day is it going to be?
  • What knowledge do they already have?
  • What attitudes and beliefs do they have?
  • How many of them are there?
  • What’s their background

And so on. Really focus on your audience.

Time
And finally leg number three, time. How long do you have to talk? Seems quite simple really but this one can jeopardise the other legs quite quickly. One of the biggest mistakes presenters make (and myself included here) is to try and achieve more objectives than can be achieved in the time available. We end up rushing, trying to get our audience to take on more than the magic three points, lose our real purpose and often overrun, which is unforgivable.

Let me give you an example. If some one fixes the audience, the time and the objective, you’re usually on a hiding for nothing. Some years ago I was asked by a sales director to address his entire sales team on how to negotiate client fees effectively. The venue was a smart hotel and the event was their annual sales conference.

The audience numbered over 100 and the time I was allowed was 30 minutes, and that was assuming the person before me didn’t over-run (and they always do). Now this was impossible to achieve in 30 minutes and if I went ahead as requested I would have bombed. Instead, thankfully, we negotiated the objective and dumbed it right down. We also arranged for further workshops to address the remaining objectives with less than 12 people per workshop.

Next time you’re planning a business presentation, before you jump head first into PowerPoint, stop and think of your stool. Are the legs strong enough and in balance to support your presentation?

Think back to the singer Val Doonican, if any of his legs were shorter or a bit wobbly, poor old Val would have come a cropper right in the middle of his song. Now that would have been a great shame wouldn’t it?