Friday, November 8, 2013

Communication - Topic, Purpose, and Audience

One of the biggest mistakes that a presenter makes is not to clearly identify (and stick to!) the

topic of the presentation. It is very effective to have a “cover” slide—much like the cover page

of a paper—that might state things like who you are, who you represent, and the main topic(s)

of your presentation. PowerPoint offers a way that you can link the topics on the cover slide to

future slides—pulling all of the information together.

Before you begin preparing a slide show, ask yourself the question, “What is the topic of

this presentation?” You should re-ask this question periodically throughout the presentation

preparation to assure that you are staying on track.

Closely related to identifying and keeping with the topic is determining the purpose of the

presentation. Presentations can have the same topic—but much different purposes. Below are

some examples of purposes:

ß To inform—these presentations provide ideas, alternatives, data, or opinions. When

giving this type of presentation, you act as a “teacher.” It must be accurate, reliable, and

credible. It is important to cite sources and double-check your data.

ß To persuade—these presentations can change or reaffirm existing attitudes, try to

gain audience commitment, or motivate change. Credibility is very important in this

type of presentation. Thus, you must conduct conscientious research to provide

truthful information. There’s nothing less persuasive than someone suspecting you’re

fabricating data just to get them to agree.

ß To motivate—these presentations heavily rely on stimulating emotions/feelings. As we

learned earlier in the course, the best way to motivate someone to act is to appeal to his/

her needs. Appealing to emotional intensity is critical to putting together a successful

motivational presentation.

ß To celebrate—sometimes presentations are made to acknowledge or honor someone,

to celebrate an event, etc. When preparing this type of presentation, you should always

consider the common ties that bind the participants together.


Another important consideration when preparing a presentation is to analyze your audience.

This includes such things as the size of the audience, education level, age, occupational status,

attitudes, perspective, etc.

It is important that your audience understands your presentation—that it is clear and concise.

Don’t use words/terms that the audience may not be familiar with and don’t use technical

expressions or jargon that the audience cannot relate to.

Part of putting together a presentation is to find out as much about your audience as possible.

An excellently organized presentation can be poorly received if it does not meet the needs and

expectations of the audience.

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