Communication Skills - The Presentation Environment

Before you go any further, there are three questions that you need to have the answers to, as they cover areas that could cause you problems later if you don't address them now.

Presentation environment

1. What level of knowledge does the audience have already?
One common way many speakers fail to target the audience is they simply neglect to define their jargon. You should always take time to consider whether the audience knows the terms that you are using and if you're in any doubt you should make these clear. If you need to cater for people who are not familiar with your own particular business area then keep this in mind from the very beginning.

The reason for asking yourself this question at this planning stage is so that you don't end up having to revisit the content or structure later on, something that takes up far more time than doing it at the start.

2. If there is an agenda, who is presenting before me and after me?
This question may be irrelevant if you are the sole person presenting to your team. But it can have a significant influence on the rest of your planning if your presentation is part of an agenda, whether for your senior management team or an external group. This is because what has gone before you will have an impact on the mindset of your audience. Does the preceding topic support or conflict with your own?

If someone else from your business area is presenting before you then it is essential to make sure that there is no overlap or contradiction in the material you are each presenting. It can be very distressing to sit there listening to a presenter covering a topic that you yourself are waiting to present.

This situation can be avoided by checking with other presenters to make sure that there is no overlap. This problem can be made worse if your messages contradict each other.

3. Is my time allocation guaranteed?
If you are making a presentation to senior management then you will usually be told what to present and how long you have to do it. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find yourself with less time than you were initially allocated if a previous presenter overruns or something 'more important' comes up.

One strategy to deal with this scenario is to prepare a shorter backup presentation that you can deliver in just a few minutes. If your time slot is cut, then you can deliver this abridged version and then hand out a document containing a management summary and the full text of your original presentation plus any visual aids needed for clarity. Don't hand it out at the beginning otherwise you will find your audience reading it rather than listening to you.

It is usually easier to create the management summary after you have prepared the full-length presentation. However, knowing that you do need to create it together with a stand-alone document means that you can give some thought to these things whilst planning your content. This approach encourages you to prepare visual aids and to use words that work well in a document as well as your spoken presentation.

Our free eBooks 'Preparing a Presentation' and 'Delivering a Presentation' give you more information about the various visual aids available to you and how to select the best method for delivering your message. They also discuss such issues as how and when to use notes or a full script.

You may also be interested in:
Planning a Management Presentation | Everyday Management Presentations | Advantages and Disadvantages of Presentations | Four-Stage Presentation Planning Process | Audience Profiling | Define Your Key Message Statement | Outline the Scope of Your Presentation | Management Presentation Planning Guidelines.

Key Points

  • Audience size will also have a bearing on the kind of visual aids that will be appropriate and whether or not you should rely on notes or a full script.
  • If your presentation is part of a larger event then you need to know who is presenting before and after you, and whether your time slot is guaranteed.
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