Coffee FilterRight from the start, let me be very clear:  I am not asking – nor would I ever ask – that you get rid of all the junk food in your diet. I know how dull life can be without white sugar and flour, not mention high fructose corn syrup.  What I am asking you to do is get rid of the junk in your presentation:  scan your script, your PowerPoint deck, even your goals to identify all the scrap.  Pare them all down to the essentials and you will make your audience much happier.  How do you filter out the junk?  Read on.

  1. Start with a clearly written purpose or goal for your presentation.  Why are you presenting?  Write it down now and keep it to one sentence.  Here is an example from a client who is presenting next week:  To convince the “higher-ups” that a simple adjustment to the trash cans in the women’s rest rooms will ensure that the floor stays clean of debris.
  2. Next, who’s the audience?  Try to keep it to a few words.  Continuing with the example from above: Head of Facilities & Operations and Finance Director.
  3. What is your most salient and powerful message to achieve your goal? Example: We don’t have to wait for funds to be appropriated to buy 87 new trash cans. We just have to make a small adjustment to the ones we have right now.
  4. What is the most compelling image you can show on an introductory slide to grab the audience’s attention and make your key point?  Example: Two photos side by side – one with the paper towels strewn across the floor, and one with the slight adjustment to the trash can cover and a clean floor.
  5. Is there a counter-argument (or push-back) you can prepare for and include in your presentation?  Example: Yes. Some of the custodians might complain that it’s extra work each day, but really, it only takes one minute per rest room.
  6. Are there any other key message points that must be addressed in order to achieve your goal?  Example: Yes – we get complaints on a daily basis and those will vanish with this one improvement.  Also, it will eliminate several minutes each day of additional cleaning time which can then be put toward other neglected areas of the building.
  7. How will you conclude your presentation so that your audience is still listening and possibly willing to act on your call to action?  Example: I am going to demonstrate the modification to the trash can right in front of them and then say, “Any questions?”

What happened as a result of answering these questions is that my client ended up deleting six slides and three additional points in her presentation. She realized that the extra items were things she wanted to say, but not necessarily things her audience needed to hear.  We got her presentation down from 20 minutes to twelve.  Her very busy audience will appreciate the brevity and her boss will be happy that she didn’t take of up too much of his boss’s time. Everybody wins.

Give a try.  Even better, go through the questions while eating a chocolate chip cookie.

– Barbara