Need to develop a presentation? First, reverse engineer it.

I enjoy speaking in public. My family would say that this is because, deep down, I am a ham, and have never really let go of my high school and college days in the theatre. Perhaps. (OK…yes) But I think the bigger reason is that I get a lot of joy and fulfilment out of informing, enlightening and guiding people. I love to see that light bulb go on when something I’ve shared somehow brings context to the brands they manage, their role as leaders or their jobs.

The reverse engineering process

When I develop a presentation – for a conference of 5,000 people or a meeting of just five – I first reverse engineer it mentally. After considering the audience I am addressing and the purpose and theme of the conference I’m speaking at, I start by asking myself the simple question “What do I want these people to do?” Literally, what do I want them to start doing, stop doing or keep doing after hearing my presentation? It’s an obvious question, but one many people completely overlook, never imagining that their presentation could or should have that sort of impact.

From the answer to that question, I ask myself others, in this order.

1. What do I believe this audience needs to think and feel in order to do what I want them to do?
2. What messages do I need to convey in order to get them to have those thoughts or feelings?
3. What stories can I share to help convey those messages, give them meaning and make them something the audience will remember?

I think about my presentation in the order outlined above, but when I give that presentation, I unfold it in the opposite direction, usually starting with a story and working towards an inspiring call to action.

I know a lot of people who, when they have to make a presentation, sit down and just start at the very beginning of it, without thinking about the impact they want that presentation to have. An engineer wouldn’t work this way. They think before they design, considering first about what they need this “thing” to do and how it has to function. Do the same the next time you develop a presentation. You’ll be amazed not only how much more easily things fall into place, but how many more light bulbs go off in the audience in front of you.

TagsPresentationsPublic Speakingstrategic storytelling

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