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100 tips for presentation mastery: How to design and structure your program

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

Past articles have introduced the topic and discussed client expectations and persona.

This article examines design: tips for structuring your program.

Tip 7 – Align your presentation to the kind of message you are presenting.

There are four different kinds of messages. Each has its own set of requirements. Those four are Communication, Training, Motivation, and Entertainment.

  1. Communication – When someone needs to hear new information
  2. Training – When new skill sets need to be developed
  3. Motivation – When morale is threatened or change is coming
  4. Entertainment – When it is time to celebrate or relax and enjoy

These kinds of messages are not mutually exclusive and any one event can feature components of all four. It is, nevertheless, helpful to know what types of message your presentation will deliver.

In the corporate world, training departments are often asked to design trainings for communication purposes. Such events are presentations, but not training.

Training, likewise, can feature communication, motivation, and entertainment elements — as evidenced by this Examiners own work with Learnertainment® — but these additional elements can, when used incorrectly, undercut the communication message.

And, although comedy is often used for motivation messages, entertainment can be inappropriate when used to motivate an unmotivated group of attendees.

Once you know what the purpose of your message is, you can design a more targeted presentation.

Tip 8 – Answer the five Ws during your presentation.

There is an old, but true cliché in the newspaper business that reports should answer the “Five Ws.” Those five are “Why,” “Who,” “When,” “What,” and “Where.” The same Five Ws are equally critical to a presentation.

People enter a presentation room as attendees. Some are there because they are eager to learn the content of the presentation. The majority—forced to attend, attending because it is scheduled, or there to accompany friends—have not yet consented to become participants.

By answering the Five Ws, presenters can turn reluctant attendees into engaged participants. The Five Ws follow.

Why … should I pay attention?

Many programs start with learning objectives. These, while important to the organization sponsoring the learning event, do not matter to the attendees. Objectives explain what will occur rather than why what will occur matters.

To answer “Why,” a presenter must dig deeper. It is at a deeper, more emotive level, that attendees become engaged. Connect the content to what matters in the attendees lives and you will have tapped into that deeper, emotive level.

A company training of a new hours-worked software recording system, for example, would focus on the details of the hours-worked recording system. That focus, although appropriate and necessary, does not elicit passion. If the software training was instead built around getting paid correctly so that “you have the money you need to enjoy your life and weekend,” the learning becomes personally connected.

An opening segment that passionately answers the “Why” question, has a greater chance of exciting learners about the material to follow.

Who … are you to teach this to me?

This question is important, but often overstated in training classrooms. Traditional instructional methods place introductions near the start of a program. This gives the trainers an extended opportunity to share their pedigree of years served, jobs held, and awards received. It’s very impressive. It also wastes participant time and focus.

An effective opening segment that answers the “Why” question will have already established the facilitators’ presentation ability. Additional facilitator biographical information is relevant only as it relates to material being taught, and should be shared when it becomes necessary. If the facilitators find it necessary to expound on their accomplishments, a bio placed in the handout will suffice.

The participants, assuming that the presentation has started by effectively answering the “Why” question, are eager to begin learning and should do so as quickly as possible.

When … will we break and end?

Participants, having biological and social needs, will want to know approximate break, lunch, and end times. Sharing this information immediately after answering the “Why” and “Who” questions are answered will help participants relax so that they can focus on the material to be presented.

What … is the content?

Most presentations, as stated in the “Why” discussion, begin with objectives and then dive directly into content. “What” is, obviously, the most important question to be answered during a learning event. It’s where the meat of the material is taught.

“What” informs the participants of the concepts, the details of the concepts, and the ways in which how the details work. “What” content is of critical importance to the organization sponsoring the event. It is also, once “Why” is answered, of critical importance to the participants. The best approach to presenting an effective “What” segment is the delivery of effective “Why, “ “Who,” and “When” segments.

Where … can I apply it?

The final segment of a learning program should focus tightly on addressing the “Where” question. Participants, in this segment, identify applications of the material to their work and lives.

Sometimes, facilitators, due to an overabundance of “What” material, run out of time and cancel “Where” activities. Other facilitators, in an attempt to share every ounce of information possible, will continue offering new details right up to the end of the program.

Material heard is not, unfortunately, material learned. For true learning to take place, the learner must do something with what they have heard. If you are still providing information with only fifteen minutes left in a program, then you likely have failed your learners.

Reserve that last block of time for participants to identify and share relevance information. Turn the ending of the program into an excitement building, idea sharing, passion eliciting promise to take action on the material learned.

Answering the Five Ws will not, by itself, make you an effective presenter. Persona, platform skills, dynamism, and relevant content all matter. The Five Ws will, however, help you turn reluctant attendees into fully engaged participants.

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