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2What’s in it for you?

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Techie Talks

Preparation and Planning

3 Preparation and Planning


Defining the Subject

This might have been given to you, but sometimes this can be very unspecific.

For example: You’ve been told to present on The TK-V11 Anti Virus Software to distributors

This is too broad. It’s like saying ‘Write an essay on engines’. Where do you start? So narrow the subject


In this example, the TK-V11 is a recently modified piece of software. You also know your competitors

are trying to nudge into your market. A more tangible subject heading may be:

‘The TK-V11 – What’s hot and how it burns the competition’

Then, you’d be looking at the new features and their benefits to emerging as well as existing technology

to show that you’re ahead of the game.

When you look further into your audience profile, you may need to go back and tweak this but for now,

we’ll move on and hone in on the relevant factors in your audience profile.


Audience and Situation Profile

As the presentation will be outlining the benefits – from the point of view of your audience – you need

to define your audience so your message hits the spot. The more accurate your audience profile, the

more relevant to their needs you can make your content.


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Preparation and Planning

Here are some of the factors that you need to consider:



Level of knowledge

Seating arrangements


Projectors (front lit/back lit?)

Level within organisation

Laptop (cables and connectors)

Find the Pain Points

Laser Pointers

Voluntary/Mandatory attendance

Software (PowerPoint?)

Culture (corporate/national)

Microphones (on lectern/earpiece/hand-held?)

Audience’s expectations

Other speakers

Number of people

Time (duration)

Key decision makers

Time of Day

Do they know you or each other?

Food and drinks before or during speech?

Organisational activities and aims

Room conditions (air conditioning/lighting?)



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Preparation and Planning

Not every single one of the above factors might be a consideration for all presentations but many of

them could have any impact on what you talk about and your delivery.

Who do you think you’re talking to?

You don’t need to know every audience member’s exact requirements and with a larger number of people,

it is unlikely that you will. However, there are general pieces of information that will help you sway the

people that you need on your side.

It doesn’t take as long as you think to go through this list. In fact, you could make a cup of tea, look on

the website, make a few calls and possibly have a peek at LinkedIn, and the cup will still be warm and

the tea unfinished by the time you’ve completed your audience profile.


Level of knowledge

You can get a good feel about the audience’s level of knowledge from their job titles. If you have a list of

the participants, looking them up on LinkedIn or Google+ will give you insights into their experience

and interests.


In a presentation workshop I led for British Aerospace the delegates were speaking to an audience split

between Business Development and Legal roles. There are two contrasting mind-sets embodied in this

audience. Business Development has more of a ‘towards’ mind-set, looking for opportunities and openings

whereas the Legal team were listening out for risks and ways to prevent difficulties, reflective of more

of an ‘away from’ mentality. Both of these concerns needed to be addressed to keep the audience on the

side of the speaker.


Levels within organisation

Senior management tend to be more interested in the bigger picture: competitors, profit and market

share whereas middle managers will be more interested in processes and ‘how tos’. A flatter organisation

may have a more autonomous outlook, motivated by opportunities for entrepreneurialism or teamwork.

Nowadays, it is not unusual for people to be presenting to those 6 levels up the ladder. Rae Gorin Cook

asked top executives at six large companies how people could present more effectively to them. The

overwhelming response was simple: keep it candid and short.

Often you’ll be presenting to a mix of levels, so always have a shorter version ready, one where you

can ditch the stories and drop the pictures. The senior management audience can be ruthless about the

content so be prepared to adapt and you’ll come out shining.


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Preparation and Planning

Find the Pain Points

The organiser will usually tell you what the concerns and interests are of the group. One presenter I know

was asked to address the process behind a strategic roll-out. The audience would have received him so

coldly that he decided to ask them what they felt about the impending change only to discover that on

the same morning, half of the audience had just been given the choice between relocating to another

country or taking voluntary redundancy.

There was really no point in presenting on a process that nobody wanted to hear that day. In the end,

the presenter used the forum as a way to collate concerns and feed it back to senior management. He

later returned to give a refined version of the original message, with an audience ready to receive it.

If the audience is not ready to receive your message, it’s like talking to the wall. On the other hand,

showing that you care for their pain can be your gain.


Number of People

The smaller the number, the more interactive the presentation can be as it’s easier to maintain more focus.


Voluntary/Mandatory Attendance

If people have chosen to pay $3,000 to come and see you, their expectations will generally be higher than

if it was $20. If they have been forced to attend, your audience may seem resistant, if it doesn’t show in

the fact that they’re typing on their laptops as you speak, it may well do so in the closed body language.

If you’ve made your way there, demand attention: set the boundaries and sell the benefits. Otherwise,

just go home and send them an email.


Whether you can expect a more casual or starchy environment will help you adapt your delivery and

expectations. National culture also plays an important role. For example, if you present to a senior

management team in Japan, and they start asking you questions, it can mean, ‘go and rethink’. In Britain,

it may denote interest. Go to India and the audiences may be extremely vocal whereas in certain parts

of North and Eastern Europe, you’ll know they’re interested because they’re still in the room.

Of course, there are variables that depend on how international the company is, the generation to which

you are presenting and the context of the talk but knowing the national culture will help you if deal with

the unfamiliar so that it is not unexpected. So if you have references to national politicians and rugby,

you’d better make sure that your audience knows what you mean, otherwise find a way of illustrating

your point in a way with which people can identify.


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Preparation and Planning Culture and Clothing

Clothing comes into its own here. As a woman presenting in the Middle East in summer, covered arms

down to the elbows and long skirts were the safest bet. One company I worked with in the UK, who were

very casual, complained that a consultant that they’d brought in to present to them looked as casual as

them. They’d expected him to wear a suit. “We’re paying him because he’s not like us. He knows more

and he to look the business,” remarked one of his disgruntled delegates. It’s worth asking the organisers

“What do the audience know about me and what are their expectations?” This will help you look the part.


Key Decision Makers

If they’re not in the room, then think about what your action point should be. It could be that your

impact in the room will remotely influence the decision makers so make it very clear what you expect

from your audience with a sound audience benefit that compels them to deliver to your call.


Do they know you or each other?

If they know each other, the audience will possibly be more comfortable speaking out so the Q & A

may well be livelier than if they were strangers to each other, in which case you could ask for questions

before the session or plant them in the audience, either by using a colleague to ‘break the ice’ or asking

a few yourself that audiences tend to put forward.


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Preparation and Planning

Organisational Activities and Aims

The objectives of those to whom you are speaking are not necessarily in line with those of your

department or company. For example, the quality control system in place is very easy for those in your

teams to apply. However you wish to make procedures more rigorous, and this will entail an increase

in workload. Within this gap, you’ll find the benefit that will strike the audience. This may be that they

will be preventing accidents, thereby increasing safety. It could be that the quality control procedures

will actually decrease the number of complaints and time spent dealing with product recalls. Find the

positive and emphasise it.


Seating arrangements

a) Cabaret style

The problem with this arrangement is that people will find it easier to talk to each other. However, the

presenter that comes down off the stage, if there is one and wanders around the tables, or at least towards

the nearest ones, will be more likely to grab and keep the attention of others.

b) Theatre style

______________ ______________

______________ ______________

______________ ______________

Theatre style seating will ensure that all eyes are on you. There will be less interaction with other members

of the audience than with cabaret style above. The risk is that those at the back could feel excluded. Also,

you may find that questions from difficult people – as opposed to difficult questions – can also come

from the rear of the room. By moving up the aisle, even if it’s only a few rows up, you’ll mitigate this

issue. To find more about why this is, flick to the section on ‘Managing the Question and Answer Session’.

You can move back down to the front again but if this feels to exposing, eye contact and any references

you can make to friendly faces at the back (see Spices PAGE 28), will help you build a connection with

those who are at a physical distance from you.


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Preparation and Planning

c) The Horseshoe

The Horseshoe is beneficial for keeping focus on you, whilst also aiding interaction between audience

members. This is particularly useful for exploring issues, problem solving and idea creation.

d) The Three-Wall Plenary

The Three-Wall Plenary is a convenient arrangement when your audience is expected to take notes.

It will automatically induce a formal tone and because there is a table between you and the audience

and between members of the audience, there is a risk of this set-up encouraging more confrontational

behaviour. To avoid this issue, you can:

a) invite others to present

b) find opportunities to bring people to the front, for example, by collating ideas on a flip


c) have people working in pairs or small groups.

If you encourage them to work with those positioned on other tables, you will mix the dynamics up,

preventing any form of power play that may arise, especially likely if on the presenter’s left or in front.


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Preparation and Planning

Projectors (front lit/back lit?)

One Senior Marine Project Engineer, presenting on Partnership Coordination had his slides beaming

brightly on his forehead. He looked like a modern art installation, which was fascinating, for all the wrong

reasons. Know where your light is and where it’s coming from so you don’t burn a hole in your head.


Laptop (cables and connectors)

Letitia (not her real name), a CEO from a highly successful IT start up, appeared to deliver the keynote

speech at a massive conference, only to find the cables provided did not connect between her jazzy

multi-media presentation sat quietly on her laptop and the venue’s projector. Luckily, she had a Plan

B. She cleared away the Geek Squad around her, who were trying in vain to connect mismatched

sockets, and delivered a stunning presentation without a single slide, with the aid of the Spice Rack™

on PAGE 28. Your arsenal of spares may vary, but could include the following:

a) a presentation on a .zip drive

b) spare hard drive

c) CD-roms with audio-visual slides and music files

d) remote microphone

e) speakers for music to set the tone as they audience come in.

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Preparation and Planning

Remember to keep any music, video and graphics files you might be using, with your main presentation,

to avoid the panic of forgotten files.


Laser Pointers

When showing intricate pieces of design, such as showing connectors in piping or cables, laser pointers

are commonly used. They are usually waved around so the eye plays a sort of ‘follow the dot’ game,

which often feels like an eye test by a mad optician. If the speaker is nervous and uses the laser pointer

at the beginning, we’ll see this with laser.

The laser can be best used to circle around a specific area then hone in to an even smaller section. This

would be beneficial when your audience is close to the screen. Otherwise, your most effective approach

would be to boldly zoom in on the specific area, or show a separate close-up slide of the section


Software (PowerPoint?)

If you have been asked to send slides in advance, ensure your version is compatible with the software

being used at the venue.


Microphones (on lectern/earpiece/hand-held?)

Most of the presentations will be using earpieces or some sort of remote microphone. The first point to

remember is that often inexperienced speakers are shocked to hear their voices coming back to them in

amplified form. The best way to ensure you’re relaxed with this is to buy a cheap, hand-held microphone

and connect it up to an amplifier (I bought a second-hand one for £25.00) or you can plug it into most

stereo systems. Buying a hand-held will give you the practice you need if you ever find yourself standing

there with one. Have some fun with it but make sure the neighbours are out!

Once you’re passed hearing your voice larger than life, the only challenges that remain are microphones

that are attached to lecterns or hand-held ones:


Lectern Microphone:

Moving helps to diminish nerves and signpost changes in your topic. This is restricted, as is your impact,

if you are shielded behind a lectern. I always ask for a remote microphone and for someone to push

the lectern aside. No-one has refused this request yet and it heightens engagement with the audience.


Hand-held Microphones

Many of us have experienced the nervous wedding speech, given by a speaker waving the microphone

in front of their chin, like a fan. If you are going to be saddled with a hand-held, a rare situation these

days, then make sure you’ve practised.


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Preparation and Planning

Other speakers

If there are other speakers presenting contrasting arguments you may wish to know where they’ll be in

the running order. If you are after them, find out their positioning so that you can address issues that

may be contentious. Referring lightly to content with other presenters that either precede or follow you

is unusual looked upon favourably by conference organisers as it provides a cohesion to the whole event.

It is also beneficial if you are thinking of networking with the other speakers, as you may want to speak

with them beforehand so that you can reinforce each other’s messages.


Time (duration)

If you have a 60 minute presentation slot, prepare enough material for 40 minutes to allow for 20 minutes.

If you finish earlier, which presenters rarely do, audiences regard this very favourably. When presenting

to senior executives, always prepare a 5–10 minute version of your presentation. Look at P.39 – The

PROEP model – to see how you can compact your ideas into such a narrow timeslot.


Time of Day

Presenting at a breakfast meeting? Keep it upbeat and informal. Content rich presentations are best in the

10-11.30 slot. Keep it short and sweet before lunch before people start listening to their stomachs more

than to you. My personal favourite is the graveyard slot, that is, the slot after lunch. At conferences, they

still put the ‘heaviest’ speakers on at this time, when the audience is fighting to keep eyes open. Frankly,

it’s the green light for anything goes: use break outs, questions to the audience, stories or any ‘spices’.

Look at the Spice Rack™ on PAGE 28 to learn how to engage with your audience by doing less work!

Late afternoon is another time for the short and sweet talk as people are thinking about traffic and an

evening slot could be more casual than a mid-morning one, especially if drinks are thrown in.


Food and drinks before or during speech?

If you are presenting at midday and your audience has a buffet sitting behind them, this may be hard

for them to concentrate. You may want to do an informal session, so you are not competing with your

audience’s appetites for attention. If there’s alcohol being served at lunch, be prepared to have to work

your audience a little more afterwards!


Room conditions (air conditioning/lighting?)

One presentation I did was at a venue in Istanbul on Motivational Learning. It was 40 degrees Celsius and

the air-conditioning had broken down. Opening the windows helped a little but frequent water breaks,

and a shorter presentation made the experience more comfortable. No matter how wonderful you are, if

you don’t attend to basic needs of ventilation in stuffy rooms, comfort breaks and adequate lighting, you

won’t get a connection with your audience so address these first, if you want the audience on your side.


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Techie Talks


Preparation and Planning

Where do I get all this information?

1. Google Alerts can help you to locate press activity, particularly useful for tracking

competition, and pain points

2. LinkedIn enables you to follow companies and individuals and tracks activity

3. Look on websites, corporate brochures

4. Call the organisers: simple, quick and often forgotten way of accruing most of your


5. Other presenters, some of whom may be more familiar with the organisation


Set the Key Message/Audience Motivator

By the time you’ve looked at your audience, and picked out what they’ll need to know about the subject,

you’ll know how they’ll be benefitting from your information. This is the Key Message (or ‘Motivator’).

It pinpoints what the audience will be getting out of your talk, and appeals to their emotions. All your

content will tie in with the Key Message – anything that doesn’t is irrelevant.

The following list of motivators/key messages for presentations is derived from Dorothy Leeds’ book

‘Power Speak’, who based her list on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. This list could go

on and on but I’ve shortened it to the motivators that are most pertinent in a business context.

The Wake

the only emission we want to leave behind








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