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Doing Presentation When “They Need to Understand”


They need to understand how to use the new software.

Why do they need to understand how to use the new software?

Well it’s needed to do their job.





Later in the conversation…




My situation is a little different.  I’m working with the sales guys who sell our service. 

Oh, so does the software you’re training them on have to do with their role as sales people?


Do they put information about their sales into the software?


Are they paid on commission?


So could their personal reason for wanting to learn the software, beside just because someone told them they had to, be that they want to make sure their information is in the system correctly so they get all the commissions they have coming to them.

Aaaahhhh.  [dawning realization look coming across his face]

In the little scenario above, I was speaking to a technologist who had to do training within his company on the new software he was part of developing.  When thinking about the training, he wasn’t thinking about why his audience would care about learning the software.  He just knew he’d been assigned to do the training and the audience had to use the new software because that’s what the bosses wanted.

He’s not alone.  Most speakers fall into this trap.  I think one reason to blame is one of the biggest fallacies perpetrated about presentations.

Myth:  You Should Have Only One Purpose for Your Presentation

I believe there is a huge fallacy that’s been perpetuated in the world of public speaking and it’s effecting speakers’ ability to be effective speakers.  The fallacy -– that you should have only one purpose to your presentation.

When studying what others say about doing speeches or presentation, one piece of advice that was ALWAYS mentioned was that you need to have one purpose for your presentation.  At first glance, that seemed to make sense to me.  Maybe it seems to make sense to you too.  But since I really started studying the art and science of presentations – watching great speakers and speaking more frequently myself – I’m convinced that having one purpose for your presentation is dead wrong.

For one thing, “one purpose” is overly simplistic.  Life is messy.  Rarely are we doing anything including a presentation with only one outcome in mind.

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, the “one purpose” approach encourages people to focus on themselves as a speaker and what they want to accomplish.  When you’re standing in front of an audience taking up the finite commodity of the audience’s time, it’s incorrigible to think only of yourself as the speaker.  It’s reprehensible to think only about what YOU want the audience to understand.  Not to mention that if someone else has asked you to speak, they have a lot riding on your presentation as well.

For these reason, I believe there are actually 5 purposes to  any presentation.

The 5 Purpose of a Presentation


As you read the purposes below, think about the next presentation you have coming up.  Ask yourself the questions related to each purpose.  Have you factored these considerations into your presentation?


#1 – General Purpose

This is just a word or two that generally describes what a speech is meant to accomplish. Is the purpose to inform? To educate? To persuade? To inspire? What, in a word or two, is the overall purpose of the presentation?

#2 – Specific Purpose

The specific purpose describes what the presentation will be about. This is the “one purpose” that textbooks talk about. Think of the specific purpose as the description you would use to inform your audience what the presentation will be about.  It would be the description that you would send in a meeting invitation or to the person organizing the event that they could put on their website or print up in their conference program.

#3 – The Meeting Leader’s Purpose

Assuming you were asked by someone to speak, consider what that person’s motives are for asking you to present.  Have you asked him or her?  Do you understand what the leader of the meeting hopes to accomplish?  How will the success or failure of your presentation effect him or her?  How will your presentation support his or her objectives?

#4The Audience’s Purpose

The audience’s purpose is the most overlooked yet is the most important factor to a presentation’s overall success.  Most speakers assume that the audience comes because of the specific purpose. Not so fast jack.  The thing the audience cares about most is themselves.  Have you asked representatives of the audience what your content will mean to their situation?  Do you understand why what you want to talk about is important to them?  How will your information be valuable in their lives?  Why should they care?  Understanding the underlying motives of your audience can be the real differentiator in your success.

#5Your Purpose

Why did you agree to do the presentation? Was it because your boss made you? Did you volunteer? How do you personally want to benefit as a result of giving the presentation?

Ask the Questions

Life – and presentation – are rarely ever simple, particularly when there’s a lot riding on the outcome of your presentation for you and for your audience.

Start by asking yourself the questions about and see how you can account for all these purposes in your next presentation.  Then let me know how it goes by commenting in the comments section below!

Presentation Skills Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, Blogger and Tweeter Kelly Vandever

In an attention-deficient, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-my-Facebook-page kind of world, the typical business presentation is lame.  Do you want to change that for yourself and your staff? Professional speaker, trainer, tweeter and blogger Kelly Vandever is here to help!  An award winning speaker herself, Kelly helps organizations crank up their content and create killer interaction using old school and hi-tech techniques, all while annihilating bullet points and making this a better world for business audiences.  Find out more at Communications for Everyone.