• open panel

Don’t Present On a Topic


By Mark Kretschmar

You learned it in college; you may have learned it in high school: Select a topic of interest to the audience for your presentation. This rule isn’t so much “wrong” as it is distracting. Of course you should be speaking of something which interests the audience. Where this rule gets in the way, like most rules, is the implications and ramifications of its assumptions.

When an “interesting topic” becomes the driving force behind your presentation, you feel you have everything you need and you forget the Presentation Prime Directive: Make your audience think, feel, or do something that accomplishes the presentation’s objective. (See the Presentation Rebellion installment #1).

When you do not set an objective for the audience response as THE driving force for your presentation, you will begin to collect, organize, and then spew serial information at the audience, likely supported by endless bulleted lists. When the topic is interesting enough to the audience, and your passion shows, you may hold your audience’s attention in spite of the bullet slides (which they’re ignoring by the way – see Presentation Rebellion #4, The 6×6 Rule).

But what have you accomplished? Does the audience think, feel, or do something different than they did before your presentation? Is it what you wanted them to think, feel or do?

Take your fascinating topic and consider what you want the audience to do. “I want them to be fascinated so they will… what?

With an answer to that question, you have criteria for selecting those few “silver bullets” among your long list of information. You can select images or visual word-metaphors that drive to those silver bullets and that drive your intended emotional response to whatever you are currently conveying.

When you have identified those jaw-dropping silver bullets, tease them in the opening of your presentation. Deliver them with supporting images/metaphors during your presentation. Refresh them in your closing to drive the concept home one last time, because above everything else, your audience will remember how you ended your presentation.

The best way to really connect with your audience so they think, feel, or do something that aligns with your purpose is through story rather than serial facts.

To increase your value by bringing your communication skills up to match your technical skills, contact Mark at mark@engineerspeak.com or 651-728-0352 and check out the helpful, free content on engineerspeak.com.