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Presentation Skills: Avoiding Data Overload

April 17, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Presentation Skills

If we want our presentations to be a success, it is extremely important for presenters to both know their audience and to have very clear objectives for his or her presentation. Knowing your audience helps in all sorts of ways. It shows that you are professional – that you have done your research and that you care about your audience. The size of the audience will determine whether you can adopt an informal and interactive approach or whether you have to make it a more formal affair. Trying to get a question and answer session going with 200 people is an almost impossible task, while with 10, 15 or even 20 people perhaps, you can allow questions and discussion to develop as the talk proceeds, if you wish.

While your overall purpose for giving your presentation may be crystal clear, it is important to remember that your audience will have their own goals and objectives for attending at an individual level. Hence, one of the major challenges is to ensure that your presentation will help them to achieve their ends whilst also meeting your own. This can only be done if you evaluate your audience and make intelligent estimates about their needs and wants.

From your perspective as a presenter it is important to be not only clear about our overall purpose but also about our particular objectives (as these often get confused with one another). There is a simple way of remembering the difference: A purpose is a general or broad statement of intent – an overall aim. Objectives are the stages or steps by which the purpose is to be achieved.

Let’s look at two brief examples to illustrate what we mean here.

Example 1: Imagine your purpose is to successfully climb Mount Everest. Then your objectives would be as follows:

  1. March through the foothills and establish the base camp.
  2. Climb and establish camp two.
  3. Climb and establish camp three.
  4. Assault the summit from camp three.
  5. Descend as soon as possible.

Example 2: Your purpose is: To keep the general management team “in the picture” as to the current stage of a particular project and to draw their attention to potential danger points, so that corrective action can be agreed. In this situation the objectives may be as follows:

  1. Point out that the project is currently one week behind schedule but can be brought up-to-date providing the following adjustments are made: A. More overtime (up to 95 hours) in the next period, and B. Cancellation of the second test, which simply duplicates the first one.
  2. Stress that costs will remain within budgeted limits, if these adjustments are accepted.
  3. Confirm that all other performance and quality standards have been met during the last period.

The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Presentation Skills Video Vignette Set.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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