Click here to buy the book

An edited and revised book on public speaking for introverts based on the articles from this site

Finding Your Message

What is your presentation about?

I don’t mean the title.

I don’t mean a brief summary.

I don’t even mean “Why did your Boss ask you to give this presentation”

What I mean is “What do you want to get out of the presentation?”

What you want to get out of the presentation is often vastly different from why you’ve been asked to give it.  For instance, maybe you’ve been asked to give the presentation because you’re the only person who knows about the new grommet ordering system.  That’s fine.  I’m sure your boss is really keen to get everybody on board with the new system.

But perhaps you have a different aim.  You want to give the presentation because you want to be noticed, or because you want people to see you as someone who can have ideas that work – or someone who can see a difficult project through to completion.

When it comes to presentations, there are always three aims:

What do you hope to get out of it?

What does the person asking you to speak hope to get out of it?

What does the audience hope to get out of it?

Let me let you into a secret.  In almost all cases, what the audience want is to be entertained.  Sure, the audience may think they want to know the information conveyed in your presentation – hell, you might think they need to know the information – but if its a boring presentation, they won’t remember or act on it anyway.  So when it comes to setting the message, I urge you not to consider your audience.  Most of constructing a presentation comes down to thinking about their needs – this first step is about you.

What the person asking for the presentation wants is more complicated.  Often people asking for presentations have a number of motives – sometimes they genuinely want you to share information, but other times they want to put their team on show, or even just fill a space in a schedule.  You might be able to guess their true desire, you might not.  But what is important is that they set the theme for your presentation – no matter how much you want to get the message out “Look how wonderful I am” or “Promote me” or “Send me on that sales trip to Hawaii”, you have to wrap the message up inside they question they set.

What you hope to et out of it is the real message.  This is what we are going to be working on throughout the rest of these articles.  So sit down and think:  What really motivates you to want to stand up in front of a crowd of people and tell them about something?  What do you hope or dream will come out of this?

It may be your presentation is to sell something other than yourself – maybe you have an idea to sell – perhaps a change in how your workplace works will make your life easier.  Maybe you even have a product to sell (and the benefit is the commission you’ll get from selling it)  In any case – think about what it is you really want your audience to do.  And remember – while there might be 100 people sitting in the room listening to you, sometimes the number of people who can make the change you want is much smaller.  They are the people you want to take away your message.

So right now, before you move on, answer the question:

Why were you asked to give this presentation?

Why to people think they are coming to your presentation?  What do they expect to get out of it?

What do you really, deep down, want people to do once they have heard your presentation?

The final answer is your message.  This is the one thing you want people to take away from your presentation (if you think you have more than one message, try again.  get it down to one, most important thing that you – not someone listening to you or someone paying you – wants to get some of the people listening to do as a result of the presentation?)

Now you have your message, you need to get people to want to listen to it, and take it onboard.