How to plan an effective presentation in 6 easy steps

Planning your presentation

If You Fail To Plan, You Plan To Fail! The success or failure of a presentation is determined long before you walk into the venue and engage the audience.

Let’s consider how you can plan your presentation effectively, making it as relevant, concise and targeted for your audience as possible.

Planning successful presentations
Planning successful presentations

If you struggle with planning, it’s really all about the 6 essential planning questions: why, who, what, where, when and how? If you can answer these in relation to your presentation, you have a plan.

Why?

Let’s start here. Why are you delivering the presentation – what’s your goal or objective? What are you trying to achieve? You need to know this. Presentations usually have one of two purposes – they’re either informative or persuasive. You’re telling or you’re selling. In fact, you’re always selling. You’re selling you. And if the audience buy you, they’ll buy what you’re saying!

If you’re telling, the aim could be to inform, update, advise, explain, clarify, teach, thank or congratulate the audience members. If you’re selling, the goal is to influence and persuade, to gain their willing buy-in and cooperation for whatever you are selling. This might be a product or service, or a new system or process, or way of thinking. Make sure you are clear regarding the purpose of your presentation.

Who?

It’s time to KYA – know your audience! Another vital part of the planning process. What would be useful to know about them?

  • How many people will you be presenting to? Useful to know for room logistics and will help your nerves.
  • Who are they? Colleagues, customers or suppliers? Levels of knowledge regarding the topic will vary greatly. Don’t tell them what they already know, or don’t need to know.
  • Consider age and status within the company – will you use a formal or more informal delivery style?
  • Have you presented to this audience before, and how did it go? Was it well received? Did you listen to the feedback and act on it?
Deliver an effective presentation
Delivering effective presentations

What?

This question is all about the content of your presentation. What will you cover? You want the content to be relevant and targeted to your audience, so it’s time to use the following equation: why + who = what!

You know why you are presenting and to whom. This will help you to determine what to include. Some presenters focus too much on the ‘what’ question, without considering ‘why’ and ‘who’. They brainstorm potential content and end up with far too much information. Then you have the difficult decision of what to leave out.

Where?

This is about venue considerations. Do your homework – what can you find out about the room? Factors include the size, shape and layout, location, accessibility, resources available (projector, flip-chart?), lighting, heating and refreshments. Find out what you can prior to presenting – it’s one less thing to worry about.

STL-presentation-skills-london
Learn successful presentation planning and delivery skills in London

When?

When are you presenting? The morning is better, because after lunch the audience could be experiencing a post-lunch slump. Also, in your introduction, let them know about timings and breaks.

How?

Finally, think about how you’re going to deliver the presentation. This includes your delivery style, formal or informal, what you’re going to wear, and any resources needed. These could include visual aids, slide clicker or laser pointer, handouts or a microphone.

Conclusion

Some people struggle with planning a presentation, but it really is worth doing in terms of the impact it can make. Can you answer the ‘why, who, what, where, when and how’ questions? Remember, proper planning and preparation prevents poor presentation performance!

Understand Heuristics to Improve your Decision Making

Decision making – is it mind over matter?

How can we decide?

Use heuristics to make decision making easier
Decision making can be difficult, so use heuristics to help

German psychologist, Gerd Gigerenzer, identified ‘heuristics’ as tools for smart decision making in times of uncertainty. Allied to intuition, he argues, it is the subconscious mind which decides what our choice will be, given the overwhelming number of options available to us.

What are heuristics?

Heuristics are an efficient, cognitive process, conscious or unconscious, which tend to ignore part of the information available to us. This saves time and effort when making decisions. Some believe that this implies a greater degree of error than those decisions made by ‘reason’. They will ask when the rational models are not being met, “which heuristics are being used in which situation? (for there are many)” and “when should people rely on a given heuristic rather than on a complex strategy to solve problems?

Gigerenzer reviewed research, testing formal models of heuristic inference, including those in business organisations, healthcare, and legal institutions. This research indicated that individuals and organisations often rely on simple heuristics in an adaptive way. By ignoring part of the information, we are led to more accurate judgements.

How heuristics sway your decisions?

Big business uses these filter methods, becoming adept at marketing that will urge us to make a decision in their favour. Usually by adding an option which the mind will have to dismiss. For example:

a) overwhelming in choices to be made

b) not at all useful when compared to the other choices

Dan Ariely explains this in more detail in his video:

Check-in with intuition

Even if we are sure our reasonable analyses have led us to the best decision, it is still worth checking on our intuition before we act – that warm feeling or tingle when something ‘feels’ right. If not, the unconscious can “sabotage” anything which does not sit comfortably with us. Since the unconscious mind is the arbiter over what decisions we make, we would be wise to be open to collaboration with it. If we assume that the body is made up of millions of intelligent cells, we can ask our subconscious to assist us in coming to a decision.

An unconscious collaboration

Try this technique when you have one of two choices to make:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  • Hold out your hands, palms upwards, as if you are receiving a gift
  • Now visualise each choice, one in the left hand, the other in the right
  • State to yourself: “This option in my left hand is the right course of action”
  • If the hand raises slightly, it is indicative of a positive response. If it drops, the option is negative
  • Then do the same with the other hand.

You now have a decision based on intuitive responses. This can also work if you stand upright and imagine a light passing through the top of your head and down the spine.

  • Think of situation #1 and state to yourself “this option will serve me in the best way”
  • If you have visualised clearly, the body leans forwards (yes); backwards (no)
  • Do the same with option #2

This is how the unconscious can support a decision. These are valuable additions to our repertoire of skills in effective decision making. They can boost productivity and performance. Whereas we may have procrastinated before in uncertainty, now we have techniques to help us choose with greater confidence.