I love a good road trip. Whether it’s Vegas or Vermont there is something exhilarating and freeing about being on the road, without the trappings of the regular day to day grind. Most of my best road trip memories involve my sister, a quick early morning discussion, and the declaration of a destination. Tempe! Santa Fe! Louisville! Boston! Then it’s out the door, route unknown, destination locked. We’ve been doing this since we were little, setting out with mom and grandma in California to visit our aunt in Texas; there are at least 21 different ways to get to Texas from California and I think we’ve been every route.
The thing about a road trip is that there is always a destination. There is always a Point B. You may not know the intersection of the town you’re headed for, and you may not know the route you’re taking to get there, but you do know where you’re going.
The same is true for presentations. There is always a destination or a Point B, but in the case of presentations the journey isn’t about you as the presenter – it’s about the audience.
We call the presentation destination the ‘goal’. Specifically the goal of a presentation is the change or the transformation you want your audience to undergo as a result of your presentation. Where do you want your audience to be at the end of the presentation versus where they were at the beginning of your presentation? What change do you want them to experience? By articulating this goal you will have defined your ‘destination’.
A while back we were creating a presentation for a legislative breakfast. There were a bunch of seemingly disparate pieces of information we wanted to include and we were having a hard time fitting the pieces together. So we asked ourselves what we wanted the audience to do with the information. And as soon as we answered that question – What do you want the audience to do with this information? – everything fell into place.
We knew where we were going. We knew where the audience was going. And then we were on to the business of finding the appropriate ‘route’ for this audience.
Prior to this our presentation approach was fairly presenter-centered. We’d create a presentation based on what we wanted to say, ticking off the information we wanted to (or felt we had to) include, giving little or no thought to the journey of the audience or the impact we wanted the presentation to have on them. I think deep down we wanted the audience to experience a change, but since we weren’t deliberately planning for that change it wasn’t happening. Neither was audience engagement.
And, when you think about it, what reason did the audience have to be engaged? Our presentations were being created with the presenter – not the audience – in mind.
The audience-centered approach has turned all that around for us. We create presentations that people want to experience, that have meaning for them and are a good use of their time. And we do that by first defining the audience destination.
Defining the audience destination is a pretty simple process to put in place because it’s just a matter or asking, then answering, a series of questions to get at the heart of your presentation.
The questions we want answered are: What is the overarching goal of the presentation? Or, phrased another way: What is the ONE THING I want my audience to come away with?
But sometimes these questions can be a little tough to answer. Presentation goals typically fall into three buckets: what we want the audience to know, do, or feel. We use the following questions to dig a little deeper.
- Do you want your audience to learn something? (If this were a movie it would be a documentary). Are you teaching your audience about the circumstances leading up to the Civil War’s Battle of Mill Springs? Or the new system for processing payments through your organization? The impact of new legislation on your programming?
- Do you want your audience to do something? (If this were a movie it would be an action adventure)> Do you want people to participate in the annual stream cleanup? Volunteer on a committee to distribute funding within the community? Contact legislators to support clean air standards?
- Do you want your audience to feel something? (Think drama). Should we feel anxious about the threat of climate change? Supportive of a movement to shorten the workweek (that’s a no brainer!)? Hopeful about a community development project?
You may want your presentation to do a mixture of these things and that’s ok. Choose the one that fits best for presentation.
Finally, ask yourself: What do I want my audience to do with this information?
When you have the answers to these questions you have your destination, your Point B. You know where you need to take your audience.
And now you are ready to figure out which route you are going to take to get them there.