Technical Presentations Are Not To Be Remembered!Mar 31, 2018
Recently I read a post, and I hear this all the time... that the real goal of a presentation is to; “Be remembered”.
I couldn’t disagree more.
The last time you attended a presentation in which you were supposed to remember what was presented was in school. School was the last place where you were required to remember what the instructor said and then be able to recall it. School is not work.
As far as I can tell, there are only three outcomes that really matter for giving a presentation:
- To learn something. This is the school situation in which you were required to learn and remember something. However, even when you didn’t learn and remember it from the professor’s presentation, you could learn and remember it by studying the textbook. This is seldom the purpose of a technical presentation. But, to be fair, it does happen once in a while. With respect to a technical pressentation, even if you don’t remember what was presented you can always ask the presenter questions at a later date.
- To entertain. This is like watching TV or attending a play or movie in person or online. This is generally not a part of a work presentation, although making a presentation enjoyable is useful to achieving outcome number 3 below.
- To influence the audience to accept an idea, or an intellectual or operational position. As far as I am concerned, this is your only purpose for giving a technical presentation. It is not really about presenting data or giving an update or giving a status report. It is to influence.
The purpose of 99% of the presentations at work, including technical presentations, is to “influence the audience”. And influence does not require being remembered. In fact, communication experts and neuroscientists will tell you that not being remembered is often a better path to influence.
The better path to influence is for people to adopt your ideas, the ideas you present in your presentation, as their own.
Rather than having your presentation remembered, you want your audience to take personal ownership of your ideas, and this happens in the presentation or soon after and not because the information is remembered but because the information is absorbed at an unconscious level. (Watch the movie “Inception” and you’ll get the idea of what I’m talking about.)
So when you begin to understand that flashy PowerPoint slides, moving graphics, and all sorts of “extras” don’t really help you achieve your outcome of influence, you have to ask the next questions:
If my presentation is not about being remembered, and if my presentation is about achieving influence over my audience, how do I accomplish that outcome?
And how do I control my presentation and continue the influence process when the audience becomes difficult?
Instead of asking yourself how you can make your presentation flashier, or more cool, or remembered here are questions I think you ought to ask yourself when developing and presenting your presentation.
- How do I decide the ultimate influencing purpose of my presentation?
- How do I decide what to include and what to leave out (unless my manager tells me exactly what to include)?
- How do I develop the influencing theme and story for my presentation?
- How do I develop the charts?
- How to I open my presentation so I can keep control throughout my presentation?
- What happens when someone in the audience tries to take control of my presentation?
- How do I keep control when a high-level manager in the audience wants to control my presentation and take me in a different direction?
- How do I end my presentation so my influence is intact?
- How do I know my influence has worked?
- what do I do after my presentation?
As you can see from the questions above, this is a big topic. There will be more to come.
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