One misstep that we all have a tendency to make when designing a presentation is thinking that our discovery, insight, or story is the most important part of our presentation. While you are the person at the front of the room, your presentation is not about you, it’s about inspiring your audience to take an action or leave with a new opinion or knowledge. To do that well, you must make your audience the center of your presentation.

If you want your audience to stay engaged, you have to ask yourself these five questions at every stage in your creative process:

  1. What is my audience’s core frustration, challenge, or gap in knowledge? Start out the creative process by asking yourself how you’d convince the most skeptical person in the audience that they have a problem. You could describe, for instance, how the problem has impacted you or someone you’ve observed. Personal and specific stories with narrative elements like surprise or discovery can be very effective at this phase.
  2. Is everyone aware that they have a challenge? Do they want to resolve the problem or fill that gap? If the answer is no to either, start by making them aware of their problem or knowledge gap.
  3. How can the audience resolve their challenge in the way that truly helps them the most while requiring the least amount of their time and energy? How can the busiest person in your audience can implement your solution or use your new information? Break your idea up into simple and memorable chunks. Repeat, rephrase, or otherwise reinforce key information.
  4. What concerns might the audience have about my recommended call to action and how can they be mitigated? Does the solution seem like it’s worth the payoff? Is the solution too radical of a change from the status quo? Would the solution make them personally or professionally vulnerable in some way?
  5. How can I inspire my audience to take this action? What does resolving this problem or having new information mean for them? Can I help my audience clearly visualize this end result in some way? How does this truly improve their life?

As you’re creating your presentation, you should constantly be evaluating your slides and your talking points with these five questions in mind. Do you often find yourself using pronouns like “I” and “we”? If so, think about how you can shift more to focus on the audience’s perspective (“you”). If you are talking about yourself, make a clear connection to how those successes are directly and honestly achievable by the audience.

Your presentation and your slides should leave your audience primed to take action. Every slide you design and idea you discuss should be tied to your primary call to action. Keep this in mind when you are creating your presentation and the design, editing, and delivery of your presentation will be transformed.

Cover photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash