Powerful Presentations Tip #1: Design With the End in Mind.

For much of March and April, my professional work involved teaching presentation and facilitation skills to subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs are folks who know their content inside and out, but aren’t always well-versed in how to help others learn from their expertise. Yet they are the ones that associations, in particular, often rely on as speakers and workshop presenters. I worked with a variety of folks in a mix of formats: webinars, full-day and multiple-day sessions, and one-on-one coaching.

Through these varied assignments I’ve gleaned about a half-dozen insights that will be valuable for anyone who has to deliver a presentation from the stage or facilitate a more interactive learning experience. With a little effort on your part, the same content can also inform how you generally communicate with others, particularly when trying to influence decisions being made. I’ll be offering each one of these insights as separate blog posts during the month of May.

#1 Design With the End in Mind

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? And most conference program proposals require you to do this by asking you to share learning outcomes for your session: "At the end of this session, participants will … "

While writing learning outcomes is indeed an initial step of presentation design, thinking of your workshop as the end immediately sends you down a wayward path.

That’s because your session isn’t the end of the learning process. The real learning occurs when participants actually try and apply the information they take from your talk. It’s natural to write learning outcomes that focus on what you hope participants will take away from your session. But your content and session design needs to have an end in mind that is farther out on the horizon.
  • How will participants act differently weeks after your presentation?
  • What results will they be producing that previously were beyond their capabilities?
  • What personal or professional habits or behaviors will they have altered?
  • What changes in their work might their colleagues be noticing?
  • How might they feel about the work they do or the personal choices they make?
For longer sessions offering time for more content and more varied learning formats, I often go beyond learning outcomes, mapping out a day in the life of a session participant months after attending the workshop. visualizing them in action and how they have changed as a result of the learning they have acquired.

So, yes, the start of good presentation design involves honing your learning outcomes and beginning with the end in mind. Just don’t forget that what usually is thought of as the end is really just the beginning.