Giving a Presentation
There are three important elements to consider for effective communication to an audience including knowing the audience, the purpose, and the problem being addressed (Locker and Kienzler, 2008). To understand these elements, let’s use the example of being a sales manager presenting quarterly sales information to other managers and salespersons. Analyzing this audience provides key details to make presentation’s more effective.
In this example members of this audience would, in general, not understand technical financial details. As such delving deep into numbers or ratios may bore or confuse the audience so keeping the presentation simple and direct is vital for maintaining audience attention and understanding.
Presenting to salespersons and managers, one must be considerate of time. Busy professionals are time-oriented, so making sure the presentation is accurate, concise, and quick is important. These are also salespersons and they understand body language, so making sure that whatever gestures and facial expressions made do not convey lack of confidence will strengthen the presentation. Along with body language, the use of language such as “you” and “we” can reinforce the presentation creating harmony and collaboration (Locker and Kienzler, 2008).
The needs of the stakeholders need to be considered (Locker and Kienzler, 2008). Any negative information should be couched in language that is succinct but in a way that points towards possible solutions or at least the effort to solve. If we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, then people will function in a diminished capacity if they are unable to resolve a problem especially one that might be threatening their livelihood (Huitt, 2007).
Focusing the audience begins in the purpose for the presentation. In this example of sales information, the purpose is to provide relevant information about sales and goals and design of the presentation should form around the conveying of this information. This means that the presenter needs to have a deep understanding of the presentations purpose in order to actualize that purpose. This will form the backbone of the presentation, guiding the use of appropriate visual aids, charts, and even the medium of presentations such as PowerPoint and whatever that medium it should align with the audience’s needs (Tufte, 2003).
Knowledge of the Problem
What is the problem? The purpose of the presentation is to communicate necessary understanding of information which is in most cases what surrounds an issue or problem. No one gives presentations to congratulate people on a job well-done. This is not to say that a presentation will not include positive information, but generally speaking, most presentations are intended to convey an issue for study or solving. With this in mind, you need to understand the problem you are presenting in detail so as to present counterarguments to objections raised. For example, if sales are flat or down, this needs to be explained in a way that it is persuasive to the point of the presentation. People will often try to argue presentations in a way that diminishes the importance of a problem or problems and the presenter must be prepared for this argument. “Well, sales are down because of the season.” “Sales are flat but it’s a fluke.”
Most audiences even if they are made of professionals in the same field still have differences in thought and this is especially important in instances where and idea needs to be adopted or a decision needs to be made such as buying something expensive.
Knowing your audience, purpose, and problem will allow for an effective presentation.
Huitt, W. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved January 16, 2011 from, http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/regsys/maslow.html
Locker, K. Kienzler, D. (2008) Business and Administrative Communication, Eighth Edition Chapter 1: Business Communication, Management, and Success McGraw-Hill, a business unit of the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Tufte E. PowerPoint Is Evil: Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely. Wired Magazine. 2003, September http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/ppt2.html (accessed 17 January 2004)