The maths of presentations, preparations and time

The value of a presentation, in the view of the audience, is down to maths: the product of the story (p1), the supportive media (p2) and its delivery (p3). What does the other side of the equation hold, the side of effort put into construction? The presentation as it is ready to be delivered must again be the product of the three parts. It is essential that the presenter gives good value to each of the three factors in preparation to ensure as good a delivery on the day as possible.

Value is derived from time, effort and creativity. Time for preparation is of course limited. Exactly how much time should be set aside is a product of the size of the audience and importance of the presentation. The recommendation of 5-10 minutes per audience member reflects a great or important presentation, whilst less is reasonable for an audit meeting or teaching presentation. Many presenters spent the majority of that time on p2, less on the p1 and very little on p3. The rationale is personal but reflects perhaps old fashioned views of the importance of the supportive media, a lack of willingness to practise and underestimating the value of time spent perfecting the transition of data into a “so what” for the particular audience.

value presentation preparation

Time invested in preparation is recouped in value for the audience. My recommendation would be that each part should have equivalent input. Hours spent honing the supportive media may feel creative but if the underlying p1 is weak, it will not be of value. Improving the content and flow will reap great rewards. Similarly, failing to practise effectively will deliver even the greatest p1 and p2 in a weak and less effective manner. The p cubed value represents the value of the whole, not simply how amazing the slides look.

Presenters preparing for an important presentation should plan a specific amount of time for each section. Failure to do so will inevitably lead to scrimping, the p3 being the most likely loser. For a major presentation, setting aside adequate time for focussed practise, edit and fine tuning will pay off more significantly than time tinkering with fonts and alignment. Determine a point at which practise will start and contract to do so.

The maths of p cubed quantifies the presentation as the product of its component parts. Construction of these should reflect their value. Plan to spend time developing the story p1, the supportive media p2 and importantly, practising for effective delivery p3.

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