This week is dedicated to proper preparation. Not only for a presentation, but for any kind of communication you may make.
Since we’re moving into autumn and crisp apples are now appearing at my local market here in Italy, let’s consider the apple farmer: No matter what kind of apple trees he may plant, for best results, he must spend time making sure the soil is prepared properly, first.
Likewise, you must spend time in preparing your soil before you begin writing your text.
I coach preparation using the AIM approach. It’s an exercise also advocated by my colleague Aileen Pincus in Washington, DC and many other influential presentation trainers and training programs including the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
A = Audience. I wrote about this last week, but cannot stress the importance of considering your audience enough. Why will they be listening? What is important to them? What distinguishes its members from other audiences? Write an agenda from their perspective and use it as your guide.
I = Intent. What do you want your audience to take away from your presentation? Remember, it’s not enough to simply inform, you must have some action in mind. Write this down.
M = Message. In one sentence, what is your overarching take-away message? Definitely write this down! Make it provocative and compelling, not ho-hum. You’ll use this as your main point and then create sub-points or messages to support it.
While you’re reading this, you may be working on a presentation of your own. Take a break, and apply this exercise. Don’t be tempted to simply think your answers, really write them down. Writing helps solidify and clarify your thoughts.
If you know your AIM, before you start writing, you will be better at framing and outlining your talk.
And regarding outlining, tomorrow, I’ll give you a secret to fast-and-reliable outlining – in an orderly fashion – that will help your presentation be easier to follow, more dynamic and more memorable.