Presentation purpose creates the expectation for a presentation. If that expectation is not met, stress is the result.
There is tension in the room. The more she talks, the more it builds. Some audience members are cringing. Others are angry. There might be a supportive person, but even he is worried.
She’s in trouble. The presentation was supposed to accomplish X, and she is trying to achieve Y. It will not work out well for her.
Have you been in a situation like this?
PRESENTATION PURPOSE: INFORMATION OR PERSUASION
In most small-room presentations, the presenter is there to fulfill one or two purposes.
If the presenter stays focused on the appropriate purpose, she will do well. If she fails to deliver or tries to accomplish additional purposes, then she is taking a risk.
Most workplace presentations have the purpose of informing or persuading.
And, of course, it is more complicated than simply discovering that purpose and sticking to it.
PRESENTATION PURPOSE: INFORMATIVE
If your purpose is to inform, then the information you provide will affect the audience. There is some persuasion built into the process—but that is not the purpose. Be careful.
It might be tempting to filter the information to steer the audience in a specific direction—to have an additional objective in mind. Stay true to your purpose.
Trust will be lost if the audience believes that you are filtering the information to manipulate them. If they cannot trust you, they will not want to give you more opportunities or responsibilities. They might even remove opportunities and responsibilities from you.
PRESENTATION PURPOSE: PERSUASIVE
If your purpose is to persuade and all you do is provide information, you are not fulfilling your responsibility. You might assume that the audience will understand all the data, see the implications, and come to the same conclusions you have reached, but that is a risky assumption.
If your job is to persuade and you fail to offer guidance or direction that leads to the desired goal, then the people who pay you will be disappointed. Trust will take a hit. And so will your job security.
Fulfill your responsibility and avoid overstepping the expectations. Fulfill your obligation while refusing to assume that data alone will be persuasive.
PRESENTATION PURPOSE: HAVE MORE THAN YOU SAY
Here is a powerful tip.
In each situation, be prepared to provide more than was required.
If your primary purpose was to inform, an authority figure might ask what you think. It is good to have an answer. And to realize that your answer is not going to dictate the decision. It is simply another piece of information to be considered. Share what you think, but be careful not to overstep by being pushy.
Take a “based on the information, it seems that … “ approach.
If your primary purpose is to persuade, then the provision of information is part of the process. The audience will want to know why you are making a specific recommendation (or set of recommendations).
In this case, it is good to have more data than you have time to share. You did your homework, and you chose the best data for meeting the needs of the audience. If more data is requested, it is available. You are prepared.
PRESENTATION PURPOSE: HELPFUL PRINCIPLES
Whether your purpose is to provide information simply or to take another step and persuade, these principles apply.
1. Be accurate. Inaccurate or outdated information can kill your credibility. Information that is accurate but is presented in misleading ways can hurt your reputation. Be careful with charts and graphs. Review them to ensure that the visuals are not telling a different story than the numbers. Be accurate and truthful and avoid any language or images that might seem misleading.
2. Be clear. Accurate information presented in confusing ways will hurt your credibility. It can create frustration and defensiveness in your audience. Insider language can confuse. Overly-academic vocabulary can do the same. Know your audience and be determined to speak in ways that are clear to them.
3. Be helpful. It is possible to have accurate and clear information that is irrelevant. The information should be useful to the audience. If you deliver an excellent presentation to the wrong audience, it will frustrate everyone involved.
4. Pursue confident humility. Know what you know and what you don’t. Know what you can do and what you can’t. And know where your boundaries are—what you are allowed to do and what you are not. Confident humility will enable you to function professionally while avoiding arrogance or unhealthy insecurities.
PRESENTATION PURPOSE: KNOW IT AND HONOR IT
The next time you deliver a workplace presentation, ask yourself, “What is the purpose? Is it to inform, or is it to persuade?”
Compile and craft your content to fulfill that purpose. Have more information than you plan to present. Ensure that the data is accurate, clear, and helpful.
When you present, use confident humility to meet the audience’s needs and maintain focus on the purpose.
When you establish yourself as a trustworthy presenter, your value to the organization will increase, and your opportunities should increase accordingly. You will be making Big Presentations in Small Rooms.
Are you looking for a community of encouragement and guidance? Join The Workplace Presentations Hub.
Want to hear more? Check out The Big Presentations Podcast.