The best presentations are conversations


Two men and a woman in ameeting

The best presentations are conversations

Every great presentation starts with a question which leads the dialogue.

What’s so important that you’ve chosen to call this group of busy people together?

It may be:

– A great idea which they haven’t heard before

– One they have heard but don’t understand or buy into

– A solution to a problem

– An important opportunity

– Something you need to generate support for

– An important update that has to be given in person

– To get them to see things from your perspective

– A call to action

As good presentations are conversations you start to

– Clarify the purpose of your presentation

– Gather and create content rich material

– Anticipate resistance, apathy or contention

– Build the story

The conversation you prepare will look like a map which takes your audience from:

Point A

Where they are now, i.e. Cynical


Point B

Where you want them to be, i.e. Enthusiastic

The conversation is always about movement:

What your audience think, feel and do today.

Moving to

What you want them to think, feel and do tomorrow.

It’s about the one very important thing you have to say that will cause your audience to think, feel and act differently.

They won’t be the same as they were before they entered the room.

Presenters often make the mistake of thinking of the conversation to be had simply as a topic, i.e. a product, an update, a report, a sales pitch, etc.

The best presentations are conversations becuase they focus on


How you and or your organisation see something. How your audience sees the same thing.


Why it’s important to you and your audience


What’s at stake if your audience don’t act on that perspective and what the benefit is if they do?

For every presentation the conversation you are planning can be summarised in one sentence based on these 3 Ps.

An example

At a critically important presentation I once had to give as a former corporate executive working, the conversation was summarised as:

“A loss of 200,000 sales a year is crippling this business. In 5 years we will be out of business but we have a plan to not only stem the decline we know we can reverse it and see our company flourish again”

I could have said:

“Our company is in trouble”


“Sales are declining and we are losing market share”

Neither of these statements however, set the scene for a conversation.

I’ve shared with the audience my perspective, position and performance in terms of impact on the business.

Now I have absolute clarity on the conversation I wish to have, I can begin to gather and prepare my content to support it.

This is the point where most people turn on the laptop.

Resist the urge

Human beings are creatures of habit.

Don’t dive straight into PowerPoint to use the same templates with the same images in the same way you always do.

That approach stifles creativity.

Dare to be different

Start with large ‘post it’ notes and write down your conversation.

This is the sentence you came up with earlier that summarises your perspective, position and performance, in terms of what’s at stake.

Surround that summary sentence with other post it notes

Describe how you want your listeners to feel and what you want them to do at the end.

Put them up on the centre of a wall together and really take a close look at them.


Write down on new notes everything you can possibly think of that will support, influence and add power to those notes already up there on the wall.

It will help considerably if you brainstorm in a room you don’t usually use. Find a room that has the right energy and atmosphere.

Perhaps even play a little background music to help you think.

Let your mind go wild and free. Write down the crazy ideas too.

Don’t dismiss anything just yet

Write every single thought or idea that comes to mind on separate notes.

Stick each of them on the wall around your centre piece.

Leave them up on the wall for a few hours (preferably 24) and go and get on with your life

Go back to your wall.

Take a good look at what you’ve written.

Have another go, adding anything new that comes to mind.

Leave the wall again for a few hours

When you return add anything new that comes to mind this time around.

Now stand back and group your ideas into the themes that are emerging.

Select each idea that totally supports your message; what you want your audience to feel and do.

Be mercenary about selecting only the notes on the wall that will add significant value in supporting the conversation you wish to have.

The quality of your presentation depends just as much on what you choose to leave out as you include

Filter your ideas and present only those points which are relevant and animate your message your audience.

Now you can open up your presentation software

Open up a series of blank slides.

In the outline, write a simple, self-explanatory but powerful headline from the points you have captured on your remaining post it notes.

Make sure it’s explicit, not generic

It should be as clear and as powerful as a bill board.

Most people are on the move when they read a bill board. They have less than 3 seconds to get the message, so treat your slides the same.

What could go wrong?

You have absolute clarity of the conversation you wish to have. You now know the areas you need to cover that will support your message, so what could possible go wrong?

Everyone coming to listen to you is individual

They will come with their own views, knowledge, understanding, beliefs and experience

Some of these may not concur with your own

There will always be some degree of resistance.

The Mindful Presenter will anticipate it, plan for it and build it in to the conversation.

Post it notes at the ready, again

Preparing for challenge and resistance gives you a much deeper understanding of the conversation to be had.

You can be ready for arguments and questions that dispute your perspective and position.

Consider the ideas you are presenting from the different perspectives of your:





Write down every conceivable objection you can find.

That allows you the option of pre-empting them by building them into your presentation. You can address them with solutions before you are asked.

If you prefer to wait for the challenge, have the answers ready.

The best presentations are conversations. If you’d like to learn more:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

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