Why are you reading this ?

This is the first of a series of articles on #PresentationSkills. You care for one of two reasons. Either

  • You’re faced with the challenge of an impending presentation – you realise that presentations are easier received than delivered, and you now need help to put your presentation together, or
  • you’ve realised the importance of #PresentationSkills for any leadership position – be it at work, in your sports club, at church – and the importance of #communication in life generally, and you want to be sure that you hone this critical skill.

Starting by asking “WHY ?” will serve your purpose well.


Why have YOU been asked to deliver a presentation ?

You will likely feel anxious about your impending presentation(s). Especially if you’re new to public speaking, you might even feel that you simply cannot do what you’ve been asked to do. You’ll probably be imagining failure.


We’ll deal with nerves in more detail in the second of these articles.


But take this on board :

  • Whoever asked you to do a presentation has confidence that you are perfectly capable of delivering on the request.
  • Your knowledge of the subject is considered good enough.
  • You are viewed as having the ability to compile and deliver a meaningful presentation.
  • It is anticipated that you will succeed, and not that you will fail.


This is true for a social or for a professional presentation.


If someone has such confidence in you, is there really any reason why you should have a different opinion ?


So, when you ask yourself, “Why have I been asked to deliver this presentation ?”, answer the question from the point of view of whoever asked you. It’ll make all the difference to your frame of mind.


Of course, if you’ve made the decision that you should do the speech – perhaps as part of achieving your self-development goals – your response to the “Why ?” question will be somewhat different. But it will always be positive. Doing the speech will move you closer to the person you aim to be. That’s a good enough answer.

Why should the presentation happen at all ?


There will be obvious answers to this “Why ?”. Like :

  • Your friend is getting married and you’re the best man, or
  • You’ve been appointed as the financial manager, and you have to present the budget, or
  • You’ve signed up as a member of your local Toastmasters Club, and you’re scheduled to deliver your introductory speech.

But bear in mind that delivering a speech might tick a box, but it will not necessarily achieve your goal of communicating  your message.


The real answer to this “Why ?” lies in crafting your speech in such a way that your audience understands and internalises what you have to say. The real answer lies in identifying your purpose and then achieving it. Do you want to inform your audience ? Or entertain or inspire or persuade ? 


The real answer to “Why ?” should never be framed in terms of your needs. Even if you have decided to give a speech at your Toastmasters club, you will have a purpose in mind for each speech you give. And the purpose will always be linked to the audience.


For example, you, as the financial manager, might see it as imperative that you communicate that, if income continues to decline, retrenchments might be necessary, and that everyone will be expected to cut any unnecessary expenditure – that this will be part of the performance plan for every employee over the next year. If your presentation on the budget is so full of graphs and tables that your audience switches off and just doesn’t hear your ‘bottom line’ message, then you have not successfully communicated.


The following saying is attributed to John F Kennedy : “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world”. This goes to the heart of speechmaking. It goes to your impact on your audience. If you give your audience information that changes the way they approach their tasks, you have changed the world. If you inspire your audience to become involved in your favourite charity, you have changed the world. If you make your audience laugh, and the work environment is a little happier and more productive as a result, even just for that day, you have changed the world.


Your audience should be able to ask “Why ?” at the end of your speech – “Why did I need to know that ?” – and be clear on the answer to the question. If you are not clear about your purpose, you cannot expect your audience to decipher your reason.


Make sure you answer your “Why ?” in all its facets.


And then, start working on achieving your “Why ?”