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100 tips for presentation mastery: How to align expectations

Interview your clients and market your presentation for success
Interview your clients and market your presentation for successMicrosoft Templates

This article is a continuation of a series offering 100 tips for delivering a masterful presentation that will leave them cheering.

The prior article introduced the topics to be covered in this series.

This article focuses on client expectations: tips for aligning your, and your client’s assumptions.

Clients, and the speakers they hire always approach a presentation, training, or speech with specific expectations. Often, those expectations are unstated and assumed rather than discussed and agreed upon in advance. Discovering and addressing those expectations prior to the event makes the event less stressful and success more likely. What follows are some tips for discovering and discussing expectations.

Tip 1 – Conduct pres-presentation discussions with the event sponsors and participants.

Meeting with event sponsors will help you comprehend the expectations they have of your presentation. During the meeting with those sponsors, arrange for additional conversations with event participants. In this way, you can discover what both want from the event and navigate the different needs of the two audiences.

During the meeting, ask specific, targeted questions, including the following.

Questions for sponsors:

  • What is goal of the meeting?
  • Who, and how many attendees will there be?
  • What is there education level? Job level? Performance level?
  • Are there people who will be in attendance whose names I should know?
  • What issues do your attendee face and how can I help them with those issues?
  • What are the common acronyms and/jargon your attendees use?
  • Are there any controversies I should avoid?
  • Can I talk to some actual prospective attendees to gain insight into their opinions, observations, and needs?
  • Is there anything else we haven’t talked about?

Questions for participants:

  • What do you do (IE-is your job function)?
  • What are the common acronyms and/jargon you use?
  • What is a pet peeve of yours?
  • What do you hope to gain by attending this event?
  • What are some of the challenges you face?
  • How do you think could I help you with those challenges?
  • What should I know before this event begins?
  • What would it take for you to walk away from the event saying, “That was great!”
  • Is there anything else we haven’t talked about?

The exact questions are not as important as the conversation. It is the dialog the questions bring forth that will give you insight to the expectations, needs, and desires of your audience. Once you know those, you are in a position to exceed their needs.

Tip 2 – Don’t change your PowerPoint.

Part of makes each presenter unique is the look and style of his or her presentation. Not all presenters use PowerPoint or Keynote as a component of their presentation. But if you do, the look of the slide deck matters a great deal. It communicates your style to the audience.

And yet, some clients, in a misguided attempt to theme an event, will expect you to use their template; usually designed by a staffer with little or no knowledge about the ways a human brain responds to different colors and how your own presentation look supports your presentation.

If asked to alter your template, respond with the following dialog:

Speaker: “Who created the template?”
Client: “A staff member.”
S: “Is that staff member aware of the brain’s reactions to various colors and which colors are the best for learning situations?”
C: “Uhhh…”
S: “You hired me is because of my effectiveness. Part of that effectiveness comes from PowerPoint slides that align with what science says and with my persona on stage. I want to deliver a presentation they love, and the results you need. That includes using my own templates. … Let me ask this, ‘What is the reason for the unified template look?’”
C: “We want our event to be a seamless experience for our attendees.”
S: “You will have that. No one will leave my presentation thinking that it was separate from the whole event. I will fully integrate your organization, your message, and your logo into the presentation in such a way that the PowerPoint look will not matter.”

Bonus tip - Place a presentation look clause in the contract.

Tip 3 – Market your event.

Imagine two different participants from two different teams who attend the same event.

Participant One gets no advance communication. That person’s leader doesn’t realize that the team member will be gone for the day and asks for a project deliverable. The leader looks perturbed when discovering that the team member will be attending. During the event, the leader pages the attendee twice. After the event, the leader tells the team member that a pressing issue that was stalled because of the event. The event is never mentioned again.

Participant Two receives information in advance, including facilitator introductions, course objectives, preparatory readings, event location, dress code, and expected lunch and break times. This team member’s leader also mentions the upcoming event, saying, “I see that you are attending next week. Good for you. It’ll help you meet our team goals. I’d like your observations about the course. I’d like to know how you plan to apply what you learn back here on the job. Let’s discuss it in our next one-on-one meeting.”

Both scenarios occur in real life. The former is more likely than the latter. The cost of the former is high. ASTD has reported that 30% of all attendees do not try the new learning out when they return to the job and another 10% try some facet of the learning but soon abandon it. That effectively leaves the presenter with a success rate of 10%.

A few tips to market the event follow.

For the attendee

  • Send out expectations, objectives, and other information in advance
  • Find a way to introduce yourself
  • Ask the attendee what their hoped-for learnings will be
  • Create an information sharing blog for attendees past and present
  • Send an action-planning document

For the attendee’s leader

  • Explain the learning objectives to that leader
  • Ask what the leader wants from the event
  • Send an engraved invitation to the event to the learner’s leader for presentation to the trainee
  • Send the event “diploma” to the attendee’s leader to deliver

What related tips do you have? Feel free to share.

In the next article of this series we will examine persona as we offer 100 tips for delivering a masterful presentation that will leave them cheering for more.