Loose briefs cause grief – getting super clear on what you’re there for - The Pickering Group

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Loose briefs cause grief – getting super clear on what you’re there for

Numbers for the leadership team, quarterly update, employee induction welcome, or conference slot… you’ve been asked to deliver a presentation. Woohoo.
In the infamous, if slightly overblown words of Simon Sinek, first you need to ‘start with why’. You’d be surprised how many people I work with who are working to deliver presentations without really knowing why they’ve been asked, or what outcome is expected.
You simply cannot underestimate the power of a tight brief – and I’m not talking undies here. A presentation is like any project: you need a clear idea of what success looks like. Without that, how do you know what you’re designing or striving for?
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that information without intention is one of my (and most other audience members’ pet peeves). You need to get clear on your purpose. Without that, you significantly increase your risk of being irrelevant, waffling for too long, being ambushed by a rogue audience ego, or appearing out of your depth.
Get clear on why you’re there
Before you start preparing, your first job is to seek clarification from the person requesting your presentation. Ask them:

  • Why have they asked you to present? What’s the background context?
  • What do they want you to cover?
  • What questions do they want answered?
  • Are there reassurances that need to be given?
  • What do they expect to see in the way of slides or visual aids?

The list could go on. You might also ask for some more information about your audience. What’s important here is that you know your objective – where you want those you are presenting for to be by the end of your presentation.
Establish your playing field
Once you know why you’re being called on to present, it’s time to consider your playing field. Just like weather and field conditions can have an impact on the outcome of a sporting match, so too the environment can affect the success of your presentation.
Your playing field is comprised of the setting, equipment, and timing of your presentation – all aspects of a good brief. Only once you understand what you’re working with can you craft something compelling and facilitate a good connection with your audience.
Setting questions:   

  • Where will the presentation be taking place?
  • Is it virtual or in-person?
  • If virtual, what communication platform will be used?
  • If in-person, what’s the seating layout?
  • How many people will be there?
  • Can you get access beforehand to set up or rehearse?

Equipment questions:

  • What equipment will you need and what will be provided? (This might include AV equipment, whiteboard, flipcharts, lectern)
  • Will you need a microphone? (Lapel, handheld, podium?)
  • Which visual medium will be most appropriate?
  • Will there be an IT person or technician on-site?

Timing questions

  • When is the presentation?
  • How long do you have to present?
  • Will there be time allotted for questions?
  • What time of the day will you be presenting? Can you set this?
  • If your presentation is part of a conference, then who is on before and after you?

In the same way that a Zoom presentation is different to a conference room, a fifteen-minute presentation is very different to a five-minute stand up. Similarly, kicking off first thing when everyone is fresh is different to a slot at the end of the day when they’ve just sat through an hour of waffling from Tony in HR. 
Context counts. It’s impossible to construct a great presentation without first understanding your playing field and what your presentation needs to achieve. Knowledge brings power to your preparation and intention to your presentation.

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