Since PowerPoint is a mechanism for communicating messages, like Jane, your first decision is to determine what to tell your audience. These are your main messages.
The main messages for your presentation are a "high-level gloss " of the content you wish to convey . Different audiences may need similar messages, but some groups will need to have differing detail levels.
In a perfect world, each of these main messages becomes a section of your presentation. The more time spent defining the messages, the less re-work you need to do later on. This is not going to take hours and hours to do: determining the main messages for most presentations is fairly easy. A good way to learn how to create main messages is to think about the last few presentations or speeches you have heard . Make a two-column chart that shows each presentation and what you got out of each one.
Sample Presentation Topics
We did great at these things
XYZ sold beyond belief this quarter
Objectives for this session are
Provide details on new topics
Some main messages are not as easily defined. For example, if a CEO is getting ready to present news of a layoff to a group of employees , the main message needs to be very clear. Is the message:
You are all losing your jobs, but I am keeping mine.
The company is not doing well, so we need to let some of you go.
You are being laid off Here are the benefits you will get.
We are in a short- term cash flow situation and need to let some of you go. You will be called back in 90 days.
We need to make some cuts in our department. The following people will be losing their jobs along with me.
We are closing the doors and laying you all off today
Each of these approaches has been used as the main message in a layoff situation. The first one didn't go over very well. The last one didn't either. On the other hand, when the main message wasn't just "Bye Bye," the audience was much more open to listening to why the layoffs were happening.
Layoff presentations are one area where you might not want to lead with your main point. This type of presentation takes practice and finesse to create.
So how do you determine what the main message is? The easiest way is to look at the potential content as an audience member instead of as the presenter. Think about what you would like to know about the topic instead of what you can say about the topic. I find it easier to determine this information by stating questions that need answering and then developing the answers. That is why you will see my main messages stated as questions.
In Jane's case, we know the basics of the presentation but we need to determine what the main messages will be.
From reading the one- sentence blurb about Jane's project, you quickly see there are some messages everyone involved in the project needs to know:
Who will the work be done for?
Who is providing the funding?
Who will be doing the yard work?
How will we measure the success of the program?
When will the work be done?
As we researched the project, we found there are also hidden messages some of the audiences will want to know:
Why should the project be funded ?
What equipment will we need?
What training will we provide?
Will the teens be supervised?
How will the teens be assigned to projects?
How many hours will the teens be expected to work?
Where are we getting the volunteers?
How will we select places to have work done?
Once the basic brainstorming on the messages has been completed, it is time to review the messages with a member of the potential audience. Ask this person to review the messages as if they knew nothing about the project. Tell them you would rather have more messages than you can present, than to have missed a major message.
Chances are pretty good your reviewer will find at least one or two pieces of information you have missed. Add these messages to your list and move to the next step.
Some of the messages for your presentation are more important than others. The most important messages should get certain specialized treatments in your presentation:
Placement: The most important messages should go close to the beginning or close to the end of your presentation.
Repetition: The most important messages should be said more than once.
Interaction: The more interaction an audience member has with a piece of information, the more likely they are to remember it.
Once the messages and their individual priorities have been determined, the next step is to build a chart with the messages down one side and a number of blank columns following the messages. These blank columns will be filled in with the audience for the specific message.
When you get the messages defined, type them into a Word table or an Excel spreadsheet. This allows easy addition of columns for the audiences defined in the next stage of your presentation development.
An additional advantage to keeping the messages in this format is messages and audiences can be added as they are discovered during the development of the content.