Presenter’s Manifesto: Know Your Message

As stated in Tip 1, our goal when presenting is to communicate a particular message to a specific audience, which we do in order to enable or persuade in some way. That’s only going to happen if we truly know our message inside and out.

Courtesy Salwa alzughaibi, via Flickr

Courtesy Salwa Alzughaibi, via Flickr

There are few things quite as boring, if not plain irritating, as trying to listen to a presenter who does not know his message. TTD quickly approaches zero as we reach for our phones, and why shouldn’t it? The presenter didn’t have enough respect for us to do his prep work, so he doesn’t really deserve our attention! Yes, I did mean to say respect! A presenter who does not take the time to properly prepare is not thinking about his audience – he’s thinking about himself. And if he’s thinking about himself, he is doomed to fail.

Have you ever witnessed a presenter:

  • stare at the screen and read the slides word for word,
  • stare down at his notes and read them word for word, or
  • insert nerve-rattling “uuuuhhhhs” and “ummmms” between every 3 or 4 words?

These are not the signs of someone who took the time to learn their message, and moreover, telegraphs to us that he doesn’t care a whole lot about it (or perhaps us) either.

Tip 4 is a key principal of presenting well, and it is simply to:

Know your content thoroughly

It’s not enough to have created slides, because slides shouldn’t have all the content anyway.The slides, covered in an upcoming tip, should merely add to or reinforce what we have to say.

Here are two questions to help us make sure we truly know our content:

  • Can we give our message without more than just a quick glance at each slide?
  • Can we answer any relevant questions that may come from the audience?

If the answer is “no”, more practice and study is required.

Another benefit that comes from truly knowing our message is that it will be much easier to speak with enthusiasm, which will help us connect more easily with the audience. Knowing our message really well frees us from much anxiety and allows us to focus more on the audience.

This post is part of the series “The Presenter’s Manifesto”.  You can find the beginning of the series here: Presenter’s Manifesto – Prologue