We've all been to presentations that inform us, persuade us, instruct us, inspire us, and even entertain us. The best ones leave a lasting impression. Why? They had a clear purpose—and the speaker's enthusiasm was likely contagious.
Everyone—from those who regularly present in front of large audiences to managers who pitch their ideas to co-workers—can improve the impact of their message by identifying the purpose. Once that's determined, prepare and practice (and practice, and practice!) your presentation. Modify it as you go to meet the specific purpose. Remember to make eye contact, slow down, and breathe. It's not a race. Don't talk at the audience, no one wants to feel like they're being lectured. Sprinkle in some personal stories when/where appropriate and keep it simple.
6 Main Types of Presentations:
1) Providing Information. This format encompasses anything from a team meeting that gives updates on a project or upcoming event to a demonstration that shows product functions.
2) Teaching a Skill. Your company just installed a new system or implemented a new process that requires people to learn how to use the new tool and apply the process.
3) Reporting Progress. As you integrate the new system into your daily routine, your boss wants to know how it’s working. You might schedule a divisional meeting or group off-site to share the progress.
4) Selling a Product or Service. A briefing like this might include a recap of the product or service, next steps and action items, or a discussion of needs and improvements before the product is ready to sell.
5) Making a Decision. It’s time for the annual holiday party and ideas are being tossed around the office. When giving your input on the location, make sure to share the must-haves and nice-to-haves for the event. When it’s time for the final decision, you can see how your idea stacks up to the other options.
6) Solving a Problem. This could be in a panel setting or other meeting where the problem is identified, the facts of the problem are presented and a list of causes is generated. From here, you lay out the ideal outcome, present solutions and discuss your recommendation.
With any presentation, know your objectives. If your purpose is to inform or update, you will most likely use one of the first three types of presentations. On the other hand, if you’re on a mission to persuade someone, use one of the last three presentation types. Not every presentation has to mold itself into a traditional presentation; it can be an interview, status report, program, pitch, speech or demonstration. The best presentations clearly show the speaker's passion and include a genuine connection to the audience, regardless of presentation type.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2014 and has been updated for clarity.