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5 Key Questions When Planning Your Presentation (Presentation Masterclass – Part 2)

5 Key Questions When Planning Your Presentation (Presentation Masterclass – Part 2)
Typical presentation process

    Part 1 of this series is here.

    Let’s just reiterate our starting position here:

    MOST PRESENTATIONS SUUUUUUUUUCK!

    This happens at all stages of the life-cycle of a presentation, but if your base preparation is below par, then no amount of shiny graphics and animation will save you – sucky foundation, sucky presentation.

    To rise above the background noise of a zillion average-to-bad presentations, here are a handful of key questions to ask yourself as you put your thoughts together:

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    • Do I really need to present?
    • What do I want to occur as a result?
    • What is the mindset of my audience?
    • How am I going to structure my points?
    • Do I need to use visual aids?

    There are other questions of course, but these are the cornerstones.

    1. Do I really need to Present?
    Is gathering these people in a room and talking to them, with or without visual aids, the best way of imparting this information to this group of people? When I lecture on this topic, I facetiously suggest using anything from Pony Express to Skywriting to get your message across – precisely because as McLuhan said, in many cases the medium is the message.

    Would you be better off with six people sitting around a coffee table discussing some hefty tome of a report? How about a massive brainstorming session with 200 people with Post-it notes and lots of gophers. Maybe get your whole team down on a beach and the person with the conch shell gets to speak. Take your pick, but if your audience thinks you’ve got nothing of relevance to say, or that this is yet another ego trip by a manager with a PowerPoint fetish, no tool is going to help you.

    2. What do I want to occur as a result?
    If there is no call to action, there probably shouldn’t be a presentation. Even if your talk is purely informative, what do you want your audience to do with that knowledge? People need interpretation, not narration, and that is why you are up there. Tell them the data, tell them what you think it means and then get a discussion going on what you should all do about that.

    The starting point here is to define what constitutes a good outcome. If you’re a fairytale princess, it’s all about a castle and a handsome prince on a big white horse and everyone living happily ever after. In real life, it’s rarely that defined. Does the horse actually need to be white? At a pinch, would a truck do? Do you really need to be happy ever after, or just to end of this financial reporting period?

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    Get clear. Really clear. What do you want them to do after your presentation? If you have no strong answer to that question, then you need to revisit question 1 again.

    3. What is the Mindset of my Audience?
    This is the big one, because it is only if you can catch a glimpse into your audience’s mind, that you have the possibility of changing that mind. Who are these people? Why have you been asked to talk to them? What, as a group, is their disposition? What about key individuals within that group? Are some of them more dominant or influential than others? What are their beliefs? Are they right or wrong? Are they open to hearing that they don’t possess all the facts? Do you have hard evidence to present to them or just strong opinions – and which are they more likely to respond to?

    Say you are making two presentations on the same day about equality issues and sexual harassment in the workplace. Your first audience is a bunch of late middle-aged, white, suit-wearing, male executives. You discover from your research that half of them belong to the same golf club – and that club does not admit women as full members. Your second audience are the founders and senior execs of a Web 2.0 company. Average age is late 20s, a third of the audience are women and the place has a reputation for being a meritocracy. Do you deliver the same presentation, with the same content, case studies and tone? What would happen if you tried?

    4. How am I Going to Structure my Points?
    Try telling a child a bedtime story without a beginning-middle-end structure and see how far you get. You will be interrupted every five seconds. “Who is this princess?” “What spell?” There’s a wolf? where did he come from?” “Why would a stepmother do that?”

    Bad storytelling is beginning, muddle, end. (Philip Larkin)

    From the earliest age, we learn to take information on board sequentially. The poet Philip Larkin once said that bad storytelling is “beginning, muddle, end” and so it is for far too many presentations.

    What do you want your audience to do after you sit down? What is your point? How many elements do you need to break it down into in order to ram that message home? This is rarely a question of what you know, it’s a question of what do they need to know as a result of listening to you? That requires multiple drafts. One of the hardest things to do in compiling a presentation is to let your data go …

    You: “So there you have it. 66% of respondents preferred XX and that means 1 and 2 and 3.”
    Audience: “So what? You had me at 66%” OR “So what? 2 and 3 haven’t been relevant in this sector for over five years now!”

    Identify your audience’s trigger-points and build the anchors of your presentation around those. Place them in the order that is most compelling to that audience. Provide context at the beginning as necessary. And when you think you are finished drafting, distill it just a little more …

    5. Do I Need to Use Visual Aids?
    To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint – that is another important question. Either way, I have found that the best way to start putting your presentation together is to stay away from your computer – and in particular from your presentation software. Talk to yourself in your car as if you were addressing this audience. Jot ideas down, or Dictaphone them as they occur to you. Capture little nuggets and phrases and thoughts. When you have the bones of your talk collated, lay out your story on paper. Then you can decide if imagery, or charts, or tables, will facilitate your audience’s comprehension, acceptance and retention of this information.

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    If your ideas require graphs to explain them, or to prove their validity, then yes, you may need Slideware to put them across. But if your audience consists of lay-people, you may be better simply vocalising the result: “We ran a series of tests on this and in each case the XX was preferred by two-thirds of the audience when compared to the YY.” Do we really need to see 14 charts which do nothing more than reiterate that sentence over and over?

    Frequently presenters use Slideware because they lack confidence at some basic level – their slides are used as a roadmap, a shield or an AutoCue. If you are the expert, and you have credibility, then your audience will accept that 66% of people prefer XX over YY; you don’t need to sledgehammer the point home with your 14 colourful charts.

    Presenters who do this are usually missing the point. Okay, the data tell us that 66% of people prefer XX. So what? What do you want me to do with that information? That should be the focus of your talk, not getting mired down in p-values and confidence levels. That’s what handouts are for: “I’ve briefly summarised the data for you this morning, and you can find the age and socio-economic breakdown of the respondents in the handout. What we need to talk about now are the implications of these findings for our manufacturing facility.”

    If all you want to put on your slides are words, then it’s really time to stop and think. PowerPoint is not an AutoCue, no matter how many presenters you have seen using it that way. Nor should it be a crutch-like roadmap for you as a presenter; you either know your stuff or you don’t. So let’s assume you do know your stuff, would you be better off just talking to this audience? Because if your slides are all words, I would ask do you need to meet them at all (question 1 again!) or could you simply email them your thoughts in a Word document? Look at Ken Robinson on TED – no slides, no barriers, between him and the audience; just a beautifully thought out, beautifully expressed talk. Compelling. Memorable. Effective. Affective.

    Focus on your purpose, your message and your audience and you won’t go far wrong. Once you are clear on those, the details of tools and delivery will become apparent.

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    Part 1 of this series is here.

    Next – Shaping your presentation

    More by this author

    Rowan Manahan

    Rowan is a professional trainer with over 20 years’ experience mentoring and consulting with executives at all levels.

    Where Am I Going? How to Put Your Life in Context 5 Key Questions When Planning Your Presentation (Presentation Masterclass – Part 2) Presentation Masterclass – Part 1: Introduction Guy Kawasaki’s Thoughts on Online Life Communication 101

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    30 Powerful Success and Failure Quotes That Will Lead You to Success

    30 Powerful Success and Failure Quotes That Will Lead You to Success

    No one can live a positive life without failing. However, many people experience a fear of failure, despite its inevitability in life. Failure, as you will see from these 30 success and failure quotes, is the key ingredient for the recipe of success!

    Today’s society is obsessed with success and achievement, and failure is definitely NOT part of the equation. Failure and making mistakes is hidden away or seen as a human weakness.

    However, if you avoid making mistakes in life, struggle to do everything right, and are obsessed with perfection and order, then living and experiencing a successful and happy life is going to be impossible.

    Embrace your failure, whether it is one failure or many failures, because with the right attitude and a willingness to learn from your mistakes, you are guaranteed a lifetime of success. Here are some uplifting quotes about failure and success to help you get started.

    1. “Never let success get to your head; never let failure get to your heart.” -Anonymous

    This quote is important for those of us who feel downtrodden after every failure, heartbroken, if you will. If you let failure get you down for more than a couple of days, you’re wasting away your chance to bounce back from it.

    On the other hand, if you allow yourself to build an inflated ego after every success, future failures may be even harder to cope with. Maintain a sense of humility and gratitude for each success and failure you find.

    2. “Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie?” -Marilyn Monroe

    Marilyn Monroe is spot on with this one. The first person who should be there to catch you when you fall is you. You have to be your own best advocate, the person to build you up when it feels like everything is going wrong. The others in your support system are just icing on the cake.

    3. “You always pass failure on your way to success.” -Mickey Rooney

    In today’s competitive world, it’s hard to understand that almost no one experiences failure before they experience genuine, lasting success. Failure is what forces you to learn in order to achieve that goal you’ve been working up to.

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    4. “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” -Chinese proverb

    Everyone falls. Those who refuse to pick themselves back up, no matter if it’s after two days or two years, are the true failures.

    5. “Successful people don’t fear failure but understand that it’s necessary to learn and grow from.” -Robert Kiyosaki

    There are many success and failure quotes on this idea, and that’s because it’s so very important. Learning doesn’t happen when things are easy. It happens when things get tough and you have to find a way through challenges.

    6. “The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” -Barack Obama

    No one can escape failure. If you let it keep you down and shying away from achieving your goals, you’ve failed again. If you learn from it and continue on your path toward greatness, it wasn’t a true failure but a lesson.

    7. “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” -Og Mandion

    Determination is one of the best antidotes to failure. Even if you take two steps forward and one step back, you’re still moving forward with grit and determination. Keep going!

    8. “Fear regret more than failure.” -Taryn Rose

    At the end of your life, what do you think you’ll feel worst about, failing or never trying?

    9. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” -Nelson Mandela

    If anyone has enough insight to offer us success and failure quotes, it’s Nelson Mandela. He learned that that path to success (and freedom) is full of setbacks. His determination, however, led him to make amazing changes in the world around him. Now that’s success.

    10. “The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” -Paulo Coelho

    Each time you get back up, it will get easier and easier, and you’ll realize each time that those failures are the greatest lessons life will ever give you.

    11. “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” -Napoleon Hill

    Unfortunately, many people stop trying after a large failure comes their way. They lose their confidence, determination, and will. However, success usually follows quickly behind these huge failures because you’ve inevitably learned what not to do.

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    Don’t stop with the huge failure. Take a few more steps and see if it gets you where you wanted to go.

    12. I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Alva Edison

    Through his success and failure quotes, Thomas Edison shows us that failures are only truly failures if you don’t learn the lesson they offer.

    13. “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” -Bill Gates

    Celebrating success feels good, but learning the lessons of failure is where growth occurs[1], which can lead you to even greater successes.

    14. “The only thing that separates success from failure is one last attempt. Try one more time and you will get lucky.” -Apoorve Dubey

    Every success comes from an attempt. If you don’t try one more time, you’ll never know if it could’ve been your big chance at big success.

    15. “Failure is a detour; not a dead-end street.” -Zig Ziglar

    Many people get impatient with failure. They feel that it’s a stopping point, or a road that’s too long to walk. However, the patience to take that new road is exactly what’s necessary to find success. If success is easy to find, it likely won’t last very long.

    16. “In the real world, very smart people fail, and mediocre people rise. Part of what makes people fail or succeed are skills that have nothing to do with IQ. Also, the idea that intelligence can be gauged by an IQ test is erroneous.” -Camille Paglia

    Failure is not a sign of a lack of intelligence, as Paglia suggests. Failure is a sign of great intelligence and great courage. She also points out the important point that intelligence takes many forms, and it’s often the grit and maturity to accept failure for the temporary setback that it is.

    17. “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” -Oprah Winfrey

    Queens will always be queens, no matter if they experience success or failure. And you will always be you, so use that to your advantage, and take the risk of failure in order to reach success.

    18. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” -J.K. Rowling

    Living a life free of failure generally means you have lived a boring, uneventful life. Is it really worth it?

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    19. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” -Richard Branson

    If you’ve ever watched a child learn to walk, you know that Branson’s success and failure quotes are true. Children are determined. They fall, and they get back up. And then they learn, and soon they’re running.

    20. “Success or failure is caused more by mental attitude than by mental capacity.” -Walter Scott

    Scott knows that intelligence is less of a determining factor in success than determination or ruthless optimism. Set yourself up for success by cultivating both.

    21. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

    Michael Jordan knows failure, and yet we know him as an incredibly successful person. Why? Because he never let the failures stop him from moving on.

    22. “There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.” -José N. Harris

    The secrets to success are pretty simple, and living a full life is only possible once you learn that getting up after a failure will bring a great sense of satisfaction and joy.

    23. “All people fail at certain instances in their lives, the only thing that makes them different is how they manage to stand up or how they choose to fail again.” -Unknown

    If you fail, you’re like the vast majority of the world. What makes you different is how you choose to respond.

    24. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -Robert Kennedy

    If you aim high, even if you fall short you’ll still likely be ahead of the majority of people. Take the time in life to fail greatly because that’s where you’ll find your true self.

    25. “Failure is good as long as it doesn’t become a habit.” -Michael Eisner

    If you continue to make the same mistakes, you’re not learning from your failures. This is when it becomes a destructive habit instead of a moment to propel you toward success.

    26. “If you are afraid of failure, you don’t deserve to be successful.” -Charles Barkley

    Only those who are willing to accept the hard emotions that come along with failure will be those who will enjoy the good feelings of genuine success.

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    27. “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. It is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.” -William A. Ward

    In his success and failure quotes, Ward points out something important. Failure is often seen as a death stroke, something that stops our success. If we shift our perspective and look upon failure as a teacher instead, we will likely feel very differently about those moments in our life and see that failure is delay, not death.

    28. “Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure. So that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” -Maya Angelou

    We’ve been here before. Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it. Let yourself get a bad grade on the test; you’ll study differently next time. Let yourself fail at a relationship; you know how to build a healthier relationship next time.

    Every failure brings a lesson. Learn it and move on.

    29. “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.” -William Saroyan

    If you think of the moments you learned and grew the most, were they easy times or hard times? Challenges make us better, smarter people[2]. You don’t get wise through an easy life.

    30. “Don’t fear failure—not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” -Bruce Lee

    If you try to achieve something great, even a failure feels like a success. At least you had the courage to try. That’s more than most can say.

    More Inspirational Quotes

    Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: Strategies for Learning from Failure
    [2] Psychology Today: How Greater Challenges Help You Grow

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