Planning Your Presentation – Step one: The Purpose

“The whole purpose of planning and preparation is to mitigate the uncertainty, to take the fear out of it so there’s not chaos.”

Frances Townsend

Have you planned your presentation sufficiently, thoroughly and carefully?


You need not spend hours doing this. A few minutes spent on planning, will make a huge difference in how you prepare for and finally deliver your next presentation.

Following are some factors to consider when establishing the purpose of your presentation.

When thinking about your presentation’s purpose or focus, answer this question:

“What do I want this audience to know, think, feel or do differently as a direct result of my message?”

On one end of the continuum you may wish to purely increase their knowledge on a topic. Purely providing information (facts/data/features/steps) may be the appropriate strategy to achieve this.

On the other end of the continuum you may wish to impel your audience to certain observable actions i.e. get them to demonstrate specific behaviours and activities which are measurable. For example, your purpose could be for your audience to use a specific application more frequently and accurately. In this case, your strategy will have to include the correct information, supported with an emotional appeal/reason for them to change their behaviour. They have to be able to see how this change will benefit them directly. An emotional appeal need not be overly dramatic. Important statistics delivered interestingly; examples of previous successes presented as proof and stories told with passion very often enable listeners to make emotional connections for themselves. E.g. “This application will save you on average 20 minutes every time you have to produce a report. Having to produce 5 reports per week, using this application means you’ll have an extra hour and a half per week to use as you wish. Instead of trying to munch on a lunch-time sandwich at your desk trying to get these reports ready, you may now have time to go out for a decent lunch.”

Before starting to prepare for your next presentation, answer this question: “What do I want my audience to know, think, feel or do differently as a result of my message?”

Your answer will articulate your presentation’s purpose and it will drive the rest of your preparation and delivery approach towards an effective and impactful direction. Test everything you consider to include against this to ensure your stay on task.


Look out for my next post: Phase One – Plan: Step Two – Research your Audience.

Planning your Presentation – Step two: Research your Audience

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Having established a laser sharp purpose for your presentation, are you as informed about your audience as you need to be?

The more you know about your audience, the better you will be able to relate to them by including relevant content that resonates.



Some research questions to get answers to include:

  • Who will be attending?
    • Position titles so you can establish who your key stakeholders are. Tip: Use LinkedIn Navigator to help with this research
  • What are their key performance indicators (KPI’s) they’re looking to meet via your message?
    • Cost saving; Innovation; Reduce churn; Solving a particular problem; Making a decision?
  • Why they are there and what do they expect?
    • Does their agenda match yours? WIIFM
  • How much do they already know about your topic?
    • So you can pitch at the right level.
  • What are their background experiences with you/your company/this topic? What general demeanour can you expect?
    • If there is ‘baggage’ you want to know about it!
    • Are they open minded? Have they been told to attend? Might they be hostile/disruptive?
  • How many attendees will there be?
    • So you can use the appropriate visual supports and arrange enough seating/handouts etc.

Obtain this information by making a few phone calls to your contact/s at the audience, checking out websites & LinkedIn Navigator, talking to your colleagues. Your organisation’s CRM (historical data) may also have valuable information for you about your prospective audience.

Engage in background research to get a clear picture in your head as to who the audience will be and how they might feel and respond to you and your message. This clarity will enable you to deliver your message in the most impactful way for the audience and it will stop you from presenting content that is irrelevant to them.

Eliminate nasty surprises by getting information early and strategising on how to capitalise on it or negate it. Don’t ignore the importance of this research as it can really distinguish you as having tried to understand the audience’s agenda.

Planning your Presentation- Step three: Check out the venue and all logistics

Murphy’s Extended Law:

If a series of events can go wrong, they will do so in the worst possible sequence.

By now, you already know the purpose of your presentation, you have researched your audience and you are in a position to eliminate Murphy’s Law out of the equation.

Here are some important considerations in the final planning phase of Effective Presentations. Before crafting your message, you should have  answers to the following questions:

Where will you be delivering your presentation? (Get the correct physical address including on what level of the building.)

Can you access this venue early to set up well ahead of time? (Any security/sign-in requirements?)

What is the size and lay-out of the venue? (Long and narrow? Narrow and wide? Columns? Double-screens?)

What are the possible seating arrangements? How many people are expected?

What are your back-ups to your visual supports/video-clips? (Cloud? USB? Laptop? Internet access?))

What equipment will be organised for you and what will you have to arrange/supply? (Sound?)

Will you be introduced by someone else, or do you have to establish credibility on your own?

Take special care of your own delivery space by asking questions about: connectivity of your visual support material (laptops have evolved far more than some venues have – they may not have the right cables/dongles for you); sound systems; use of lapel microphones; use of auto-cue’s; positioning of lecterns; provision of handouts (before, during or after your message); availability of flip charts and relevant pens – that actually work; whiteboards with erasers.

Finally and most importantly – who can help if technical hitches occur? Obtain direct access to, name, mobile phone number and location of this person.

When planning to deliver a memorable presentation, take care of the little technical factors that can throw everything sideways. Just like a good trades-person never blames their tools for failures – professional presenters never make excuses for poor delivery due to venue mishaps and technical hiccups.

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