P3: Deciding on content

The most important concept in developing and delivering a presentation is the understanding that you cannot “cover everything.” Nor should you attempt to. Your role as a presenter is to convert the “what” of “everything” into a “so what” for your particular audience. For many, both on the podium and in the audience, this is a dramatic shift in perspective.

One person speaking and many listening is the least effective form of data transfer. If you want everyone in the audience to know “everything”, send a document; it is much more efficient. You will never achieve that as a speaker. Your role is to interpret that “everything”, to offer insight, or challenge it. There is never a situation where your role is simply to recite a list of facts.

Deciding upon content for such a presentation begins and ends however not with the speaker but with the audience. The needs of a group of medical students are different from that of a grand round on the same subject. The needs of a group of final year students are totally different from an introductory course and even two groups at the same stage may have different needs. Your role as a presenter is to identify and meet those specific needs not “cover everything.”

In business there is a concept, “The Elevator Pitch.” You are pitching to a major business. The meeting is on the top floor of a skyscraper. As the lift doors close, a hand stops them, it is the CEO. As she gets into the lift, she asks who you are and you explain. She replies, “Well then, you have 30 floors to tell me everything. Go.” If you cannot explain your talk in that period of time you do not know what you are talking about. You may have a big pile of “what” in your presentation but your elevator pitch encompasses your “so what”. At the top floor, the CEO puts her hand on the “HOLD” button. “Tell me more”, she says. For every talk we give we must have a core concept, a single idea, around which our presentation is built. This is your “so what” and should have the audience thinking, “tell me more.”

Around the “so what,” you can then frame your presentation, returning frequently to emphasise it. Rather than everything about “paediatric trauma,” a more effective presentation would have a pitch, “trauma is the single biggest killer of children in the UK and you will rarely see a case. This is how we can make a difference.” Then construct a talk around 3 components: exposure, training and outcomes, specifically directed to the Emergency Department colleagues who infrequently see such cases. The content of your presentation is never about covering everything. Your presentation is about an objective for your particular audience and with that in clearly in mind you can begin preparing the appropriate content.

@ffolliet at P-cubed Presentations<

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