That elusive purpose!

Purpose is key to a presentation. This is nothing new.  But we just do not seem to get it. In a vast majority of transactions we do in a typical day it is very much possible that we miss the purpose a great majority of times.

In my presentation workshop session when I insist on the participants to identify and define your purpose as the first step, they struggle. The typical objection is, “My boss usually wants it this way”, or “We are supposed to present in a given template only”. Many executives have habituated to what I call as a distanced approach to presentation. Use a template, fill in and email a bulky 10MB file. What you get is a deck of purposeless, naked set of slides that are fit in to last the length of a long arduous meeting.

The real challenge is to move oneself to the position of accountability to what one creates and presents. If such a belief does not emerge, one cannot make an effective presentation even with the best of tools. The easy availability of templates has ruined this process of ideation. It has denied the opportunity to linger on and extract clarity from scattered ideas and muddled data. The templates short circuit this process and presentations usually emerge from default settings. You find people work annoyingly very hard to fit that extra bullet that hits the bottom of the screen, or let a slide of poor readability pass.

So rule one, spend more time on the purpose than choosing the template.

The second challenge is to make the purpose finer. It usually starts from vague, philosophical meandering of holy good statements. Then one needs to guide oneself by repetitive ‘so what’ to sharpen the statement within oneself and arrive at the core purpose. This is the process of removing redundancies and slicing to extract the core. Fight the tendency to conclude this process too soon. The approach to articulate one’s thoughts in 3-5 core messages would help.

Rule two, cut the fluff and get to core.

The third challenge is to identify stories that contribute to each of the key messages. Messages get reiterated when there is a story to back up. Instead of hunting for bundle of spreadsheets with pies, bars and graphs to fill the slides go behind them to check what they are conveying. Work on the story, the beginning, the various sub plots and the ending. Then, you evaluate what fits and what doesn’t.

Rule three, let the story decide the content.

Try applying these 3 rules, if not a great presentation, you will end up having one with a purpose!

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