Setting clear objectives for your presentation at an early stage gives you clarity about the content you need to prepare and deliver in order to meet your (and your audience’s) objectives.
Your objectives also give you something to measure against. Once you’ve written your presentation and built your slides, you can go back to your objectives and think, ‘If I deliver this content, will I meet my objectives?’ After you’ve delivered your presentation, you can go back to your objectives again and ask yourself, ‘Did I meet my objectives? Did my audience meet theirs? If not, what do I need to change before I give this or a similar presentation again in order to meet those objectives next time?’
Start the planning process by asking yourself these questions:
- Why am I giving this presentation?
- What do I want to get out of it?
- What do I want it to achieve?
If you struggle to answer these questions, you’re going to struggle to write and deliver an effective presentation.
So what might be your objectives for a presentation? They can be both professional and personal, and for any given presentation you may well have a combination of both.
Let’s start with some examples of professional objectives. You might want your presentation to:
- give your audience new knowledge, skills or updated information
- motivate or inspire your audience
- change behaviour – you want your audience do something differently
- change thinking or opinions
- get your audience to do something specific, such as visit a website, download something, buy a product, buy a ticket, invest, spread the word, call you, follow you on social media and so on
- persuade the audience to hire you or buy your product or service in a pitch situation.
You can also have personal objectives for your presentation.
You might want your presentation to:
- impress your boss or colleagues
- help to get you a promotion or a new job
- help to raise your profile within an organisation
- help to establish yourself as an opinion former or thought leader
- give you a new string to your bow.
Any or all of these would be great objectives and you’ll probably be able to come up with plenty more.
However, a presentation isn’t just about you and what you want. It’s all too easy to go into a presentation without really thinking about what your audience wants to get out of it. Why are they there? What’s in it for them?
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that they are there for the same reasons as you. Put yourself in their shoes. What’s uppermost in their mind as you take the stage? Is it ‘I need to learn new stuff’ or ‘I hope this isn’t dull’? It’s probably a mix of both.
Just like you, members of your audience will have both professional and personal objectives. An audience member’s professional objectives might include:
- Learning something new
- Being able to do their job better by gaining new skills
- Understanding their place within the organisation or on a particular project
- Feeling part of a team
- Finding out what they need to do next
Their personal objectives can be very different – and quite revealing.
These might include:
- Not being bored. No audience member sits there wanting to be bored. They want to be engaged, entertained even. This is probably top of their agenda – and if you don’t meet this objective, you’re never going to meet any of your own objectives as you’ll lose your audience very fast indeed.
- Finding something useful in your content. Is there something they can take away and use right now that will make their life easier or help them to do their job better?
- Knowing how to make their bonus or other goal more quickly and easily.
- Impressing the boss just by being there, asking pertinent questions or proving they know more than the person giving the presentation.
- Boosting their career prospects by networking and being seen at the right events.
An audience member’s objectives will usually be driven by self interest:
- What’s in it for me, personally and professionally?
So your objectives should also be driven by exactly the same self interest:
- What’s in it for me? What do I want to get out of it?