The Big Three

What are the three most important things to think about when creating a presentation? Your messaging strategy, preparing for your delivery, and having a goal for your results. Let’s look closer at these…


Studies show that even the most astute and brilliant audience member will typically take only one idea or concept away from even the most riveting of presentations. So, before you dive into the weeds, ask yourself this essential question, “If my audience only takes one thing away from my talk, what does that one thing absolutely have to be?” Considering how they should feel and what they should do or think is your next step. This is your focus. Everything in your presentation must support your one big thing (OBT). Anything that doesn’t muddies the water and potentially confuses.

Now that you are off to a good start, take to heart the following critical considerations in putting together your messaging strategy:

#1 (by far) KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – Your audience is giving you the valuable gift of their time. You are at their pleasure.  Who are they? How do they feel about your topic? What is the time of day? Is your presentation first thing in the morning, or late in the day after four other PowerPoint talks? If this is the case then you probably don’t want to use PowerPoint. Take the time to really understand the people and the situation.

2. Think through all the ways you can prove and support your OBT. Mix it up – stories, statistics, audience participation, etc. There are endless techniques that you can use to get your point across in an interesting and meaningful way for your audience.

3. Make a plan early. At least a month out. The sooner you know your OBT  the sooner you can start thinking about it and feeling comfortable with it. Having this cushion of time will maximize your creativity and minimize nervousness. Set some milestones for your first draft and final version so that you can relax and let the ideas come. Rehearsing doesn’t need to happen until much later.

4. Validate your messages and get feedback from friends, family, coworkers, dog, etc.


Now let’s consider all the different things you can do to wow your audience before and during your presentation.

1. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the room you’ll be presenting in. Visit it if you can so you can know first hand what it’s like to be in the audience. Is it hard to see slides from the back of the room? How are the acoustics? What technology do you need? Many a fantastic, important presentation didn’t reach its audience because it couldn’t be seen or heard.

2. Think creatively about the support you’ll need, technical or otherwise. Many great presentations don’t involve PowerPoint, and many do. Let your key messages drive your decisions here. Regardless these are all secondary to YOU, the STAR of the show. After all, no one came to see your slides did they? They came to see and hear you! So make sure you don’t get upstaged by the window dressing.  And, let your audience experience what you are talking about whenever you can. If it’s music, play it. If it’s food, bring samples. If it’s management tips, role play.

3. Self deprecation is endearing but usually doesn’t inspire confidence. Your audience considers you an expert worthy of their time so don’t undercut your important message.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, picture your audience in their underwear. Many think this is a good way to alleviate nervousness. I personally have found the practice not only distracting but sometimes nauseating.

5. Your appearance matters… a lot. Credibility and professionalism is everything. Think about your audience and how you want to be perceived. This is the easy part.

6. Never refuse a microphone. Be as thoughtful as you can about your audience. Keeping this in mind, don’t be afraid to acknowledge technical difficulties or anything else unexpected. Positive or negative. This sets your audience at ease, eliminates distraction, and helps them focus on your key points.

7. If all else fails, remember the three most important things you need to do to delver a great presentation:

#1 entertain

#2 entertain

#3 entertain.

In other words – be interesting!


It’s strange to think that most presenters don’t give serious consideration to outcomes that they want for their audience and themselves. Not only does this undermine our results, but we also have no way of knowing if we were successful at getting our points across and/or generating enthusiasm for our cause. As you begin thinking through your key messages ask yourself, “Self, if I could have everyone in my audience do one thing what would it be?” Use your answer to creatively think of some goals or metrics that you can set for yourself. For example:

– Moving the dial on certain business metrics.

– New client sign ups

– Expanding your contacts/prospect base. In some cases you could do this by passing around a more information sign up sheet.

– Fundraising goals

You could even decide that you’ll be successful if eight people approach you with questions after your talk. Or request your business card