Before you speak, WAIT

We have all been asked to present to a group — large or small, internal or external — in our professional lives. What’s the first thing you do when you know you have to give a talk or make a presentation? Odds are that you start up your computer and launch your favorite presentation software. 

Then you stare at the screen for a long while as you try to think of how to start.

There is a better way.

Start with a W.A.I.T. — by asking yourself “Why Am I Talking?”

Before you turn to your computer, consider why you are presenting in the first place. If the answer is “because my boss told me to,” then the next question is “why?” Why you? Why this audience? Why at this time?

Three objectives to every presentation

There are often three major reasons why we present:

  • To educate or inform
  • To persuade or influence
  • To motivate an action

Most business-related presentations have all three objectives in some form. But no presentation is ever just for the purpose of providing information.

Trust me.

If you think you just want to inform a group about something, ask why it matters that they know that information. If you can’t come up with a good reason why they should know that information, then consider an email rather than a presentation. You’ll save everyone a lot of time and trouble that way.

Why does this question matter?

Once you have a clearly articulated answer to these questions— what do I want to achieve from this presentation? at this time? with this audience? — you can start to sketch out the content that is most relevant to that particular purpose.

Nothing more.

That is, having a specific purpose helps you identify your specific points. It’s the first step in turning what could be a “data dump” of disconnected information into a more fully formed and relevant narrative.

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