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Meiss Education Institute

Answering the WII-FM Question: Analyzing the Situation
By Rich Meiss

Designing & Delivering Powerful Presentations Series:  III

The first step in designing a powerful presentation  is to determine the purpose of your presentation:  to persuade, to inform or to entertain.   Next, you will want to think about the WIIFM for the audience.   WIIFM stands for “What’s IIt- For Me?”  Everybody is tuned into this FM radio station – your audience wants to know the answer to these questions:

-          Why should I be here today?

-          What’s the value of me sitting in on this presentation?

-          How will I benefit from what the presenter will be sharing?

Strong presenters recognize that they need to answer these questions early and often.  Start the presentation by letting the audience know “what’s in it for them”.  Tell them the key outcomes of the presentation.  If possible, make a promise about the value they will receive. “Today, I will be sharing with you five new features of our expanded health care plan.  Please listen carefully, and I promise that at the end you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to enroll in this new plan.”  This type of approach gets the audience to “buy in” early on in the presentation.  And actually, this planning happens long before the presentation is given.

Advance Preparation:  Consider These Four Key Factors

There are at least four key factors that will affect the development and delivery of any presentation.  Use the TALE model to consider these factors as you design your presentation:
Time – Audience – Location -Event

T - The Time

How much time will I have to give the presentation?

What time of day will I be giving it?

Where on the program will I be presenting – beginning, middle or end?

Whom will I be following on the program – and who will be following me?

All of these time considerations can have an impact on the type of presentation you deliver and how you deliver it.  For example, the amount of time you have will determine the amount of material that you can cover.  The shorter the time, the more you will want to limit your presentation to the few critical items, with some short supporting points.

If you are presenting early in the day, you may have the luxury of doing more straight delivery and less group involvement.   If you are on in the middle of the afternoon, however, you will probably need to add some energy to the presentation.  If you are the closing presenter, you will want to build in a strong closing (see chapter six).

A - The Audience:

Who will be in attendance at this event?  How many?
What are their roles and responsibilities in the organization?
What needs, goals, or challenges do they have that the presentation may help them meet or overcome?
What would success look like for them at the end of the presentation?
Are there any sensitive issues to be aware of (special needs, unique situations, relevant events currently happening, etc)?

By asking these types of questions up front, you should have a good sense of the audience members needs and what would make this a meaningful presentation from their perspective.  And it helps you avoid any booby traps that might be set in the audience.  For example, I’ve worked for organizations where significant layoffs were happening just before I was to come in and present on “creating a more committed workforce”.  I sure wanted to know that information in advance so that I could avoid any statements that might offend or further alienate the audience.

I also did some training for the U.S. Post Office in one of our major American cities a few years ago.  When I asked them about any sensitive issues to be aware of, they requested that I please avoid saying anything about “going postal”.  Apparently they’d had a recent presenter who actually used those words in his presentation; as you can imagine, he was not well received by the audience.   My goal in understanding as much as I can about the audience is to meet their needs while avoiding any major challenges on my part.

L – The Location

Where will the presentation be given?
What is the room size?
What resources and equipment are available?
What type of room set-up is currently in the room, and can it be re-set?

All of these location questions will help you determine how you can enhance your presentation.  

If the presentation will be given “on-site” (within the wall of the company or organization), you will need to think about minimizing work distractions (limiting phone calls, checking email, etc.).  If the presentation is in a resort setting, you may have the opposite problem – minimizing personal distractions (looking at the golf course, or gazing at the tanned, scantily-clothed bodies making their way to the swimming pool).  In this case you will need to think about making sure curtains are closed, or the room is set so that people’s backs are to the windows.

If the room is already set with all the equipment you will need, then you won’t need to arrange for or bring along your own equipment.  If the room will be too large for the group you’ll be addressing, think about ways to make it seem smaller.  I did a session for about 20 people in a ballroom in Atlantic City that would have easily accommodated 2,000 people.  I asked the hotel staff to set us in one corner of the ballroom and bring in some dividers to create the look and feel of a smaller room.  We then proceeded with the presentation in a little more intimate setting than if we’d not re-set the room.

This brings up the often-asked question about room set-up:  “What is the best way to set a room for a presentation?”  The answer, of course, is “it depends”.  What is the purpose of the presentation?  Do you have available time for group involvement and interaction?  Are their tables in the room, and if so, what kind and how big?  Where are the windows in the room, and can you draw the drapes?  Will there be food and drinks available to be consumed in the room?  Will participants be expected to take notes?  All of these factors, and more, will influence the way you ultimately choose to set the room.

Email me at Rich@MeissEducation.com for a diagram which shows four of the most popular room configurations for presentations.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.  

For most presentations where you want the focus of attention on you, the presenter, theatre style and classroom style are popular choices.  Theatre style allows for a much larger audience, and classroom style allows for easier note-taking.  

  • The U-shape is often used for smaller groups where whole-group involvement is wanted. 
  • The round table set-up is great for breaking the larger group into smaller groups for discussions and exercises.  

Think about your outcomes and options as you make your room set-up choices.

E- The Event

At what type of event will you be presenting?
What else is happening at this event?
Does the event require a certain type of presentation approach?

Again, these and other similar questions will help you plan out the approach for your presentation.  

I once did a presentation at an award ceremony in an outdoor park.  Knowing the purpose of the event and its location allowed me to modify my presentation (no power point slides, for example).  Another time I presented in Atlanta at a large training conference in the spring of 1996 – the year the Summer Olympics were being held there.  I created a theme around the Olympic rings that tied into my presentation.  It was a natural tie-in to an event many in thecity were excited about, and the presentation was a big hit.

Some events are more celebratory, some more serious.  Some are in a setting where the use of a theme, a game, a story or a certain visual approach will be very appropriate.  Some events are in settings that will be limiting for certain types of activities or visual approaches.  By knowing as much as you can in advance about the event itself, you can maximize your chances for a successful presentation, while avoiding any embarrassing or costly mistakes. 

By paying attention to the TALE factors – time, audience, location, and event- you will do a better job of meeting the needs of the group to whom you are presenting.  You will, indeed, be answering the WII-FM question in a very positive way.


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