Making a Presentation? It’s Not Just About Your Topic

Jerry Seinfeld once quipped, “At a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.” Over 41% of people have this fear of speaking in public – that is, giving a speech, report, or presentation. This can be at a business, in an academic setting, in church, your office, or in any organization to which you belong. But there are times when no matter how you feel about it, you have to do it – period.

Most people feel that once they can control their anxiety about speaking – their racing heart, hyperventilation, sweating, or shaking, they are all set to present. Of course, you need to address your anxiety first because you have to be calm, comfortable, and present with your audience. But that is not the most important thing on which you have to focus. You are going to have to know more for your presentation than just your subject.

You are going to have to know who your audience is, why they are there, and what they are likely to expect from you.

You can use the following checklist to see that you are presenting what they need and want to hear in a way that is most understandable and useful to them to meet their needs.

1. Who is your audience? You need to consider what is relevant (age, generation, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic group).

2. Why are they there to listen to you? Are they just interested in the topic; are they seeking help; do they want to learn something new to add to their working knowledge base; or have they been told to be there?

3. How much do they already know about the subject? What is their information base, their education level, professional level, or experience – personal or work?

4. What are their general and specific goals in listening to you? Are they personal or work-related?

5. Do they have a current problem (personal or work) that they are hoping you can help them solve? If they do, this should be your primary focus. Knowing and understanding this, you can provide them with necessary information to help motivate them to act on their problem.

6. What is it in concrete, specific terms you are going to offer them? Is it facts, useful action-oriented techniques, new relevant how-to information, perspective, reassurance, support, advice, or feedback?

7. What specifically do you personally want to achieve through this presentation?

8. What role or attitude will give you the best chance of making a successful presentation? Are you there to act as a Teacher, Enlightener, Analyst, Expert, Advisor, Supporter, Problem Solver, Inspirer, or Guide?

Following this checklist will help you scope what you are going to do so you can tailor your presentation to the needs and wants of your audience, as well as enhance your credibility and visibility in the process.