Before a Navy S.E.A.L. team drops into hostile territory they know precisely what their mission is and how they are going to accomplish it. Their objective is clear, concise, and simple; accomplishing that objective is another story. The objective for your PowerPoint presentation should be exactly the same as a S.E.A.L. team’s: clear, concise, and simple.
One of the most common problems with presentations is the lack of preparation. This oftentimes begins with the very foundation of a presentation: the objective. A presenter needs to think ahead about what they want to accomplish as a result of the presentation. For example, do they want to sell a product or service, raise money, or simply educate their audience? Every aspect of the presentation and the environment in which it is delivered should align with the objective or else it could potentially detract from it. For example, if you are delivering an upbeat message you want to make sure the lighting, room decorations, furniture, graphics in the presentation, background music before the presentation, etc. all match that upbeat mood.
When you are formulating your objective it is important to not think too far ahead. Your objective should be something you can realistically accomplish during the allotted time for your presentation. Sometimes presenters lose sight of this, and as a result the focus becomes lost or scattered. This inevitably leads to a missed opportunity, a convoluted message, or even worse. . .a misunderstood message. For example, sometimes it is unrealistic to try and close business during a large-group presentation when the sole objective should be to peak interest with the hope of getting individual follow-up meetings and future sales.
Finally, there are times when a presenter has an excellent objective but loses sight of it when developing the presentation. Studies have shown that the human brain can remember about five words from a billboard on a highway; your message should be like a billboard flashing in each participant’s brain. If your message is not top of mind at the end of the presentation then you probably need to rework your objective or message.
In summary, your objective should be clear, concise, and simple. There are bound to be unexpected variables (e.g. a heckler or broken screen) that effect your presentation, but if you prepare like a SEAL then these unexpected variables won’t prevent you from accomplishing your objective. The better job you do of controlling the aspects of the presentation that you can control, then the easier it will be to handle the unexpected variables that you can’t control when they inevitably pop up.