How many presentations have you heard in your life and afterwards your first response was, “What was that about?” I’m guessing you’ve had this experience too many times to count. How does this happen? Didn’t the presenter prepare? Most often, the answer is yes – he or she did prepare. However, they missed what I believe is the most important question any communicator should ask and answer BEFORE they begin creating the talk, “What is the target?”

I’m astonished at how many communicators miss this. When we are not clear regarding our intent from the very beginning, I can virtually guarantee you that the audience will be unclear of our intent when we finish. My friend and mentor, Howard Hendricks says, “If there’s mist in the pulpit, they’ll be fog in the pew.” Our message does not gain clarity as we speak – it loses it. Therefore, we must be crystal clear on our target. I call it the Desired Result.

Here’s a good way to translate this idea into action… When you begin to prepare a presentation, start by asking and answering this question:

What do I want people to Know and Do after this presentation?

This question can guide your preparation at every turn. I actually write/type my answer to this question at the top of the page while I’m preparing. It looks like this:

After this presentation, each audience member will: __________________ and _________________.

This statement becomes your North Star for the presentation. You can use it to test your key points, check your illustrations and validate your call to action. Does it all line up?

Here are a few of the common missteps I see regarding the Desired Result:

Trying to do too much. Most presentations are relatively short. How much can you realistically hope to accomplish in one talk? Is there one thing you want people to do after your presentation? Okay, maybe two. Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting people to do too many specific things as a result of your presentation.

No Call to Action. Why are you doing the presentation in the first place? My assumption is that you want the audience to do something: vote, give, recycle, volunteer, or adopt a puppy – something. Don’t make it a mystery. Deliver a clear call to action. Tell the audience what you want them to do in light of what they’ve just heard.

Unclear or Generic Action. This may be as big a problem as no call to action – lack of clarity. Examples include: Save the planet, be a good citizen, and prepare for your retirement. What if these were clarified like this: Recycle for the next 30 days; Vote on November 6th; and record your actual expenses for the next 30 days? These are now clear and actionable. The more clear the call, the higher the probability of action.

Crafting a thoughtful and appropriate Desired Result is challenging. It is the point where your knowledge of the subject, knowledge of your audience, your experience and your judgment coalesce to create something worth pursuing – for you and your audience. It is where great presentations begin.[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.