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Genres

Applied to presentations, the concept of genre, that is, “typified rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations” (Miller 1984:159), allows us to identify some frequently occurring types, each named after the dominant aspect of the situation concerned. Among the most prominent are “company presentations”, ”product presentations” and “business-result presentations”, the (self-)representation of a company, the results of production activity and overall success being important elements of information to be transmitted in business life. In the case of “boardroom presentations”, the setting and/or the venue and participants provide the name.

As a presenter “you come face-to-face with the executive staff of your company or of a (potential) client” (Anthony and Boyd 2014: 8), and this scenario sets the special requirements to be met with respect to preparation and level of professionalism of the presentation process. Also context-determined is the so-called “elevator pitch”, which specifies a concise presentation style focused on the essentials. The underlying idea here is the ability to present one’s concern so concisely and convincingly to a decision-maker met by chance in the elevator that this brief presentation triggers a positive reaction.

“Bid presentations” and “sales presentations” refer to specific communicative relationships, respectively contractor-client and seller-buyer. A very typical form here is the “campaign pitch presentation” used in the advertising industry with a view to being granted a communications budget. “Internal presentations” (as opposed to “external” ones) include the entire range of those used daily as management tools. The more important the topic (for instance, getting staff to buy in to a new strategy), the more formal the style of delivery.

Occasionally, a “conference presentation” will have to be given, for instance a “keynote”. Special appearances by CEOs or top product managers, particularly those of firms from the IT sector and the new media (Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.), fall into this “top league” of presentations. The keynotes given by Steve Jobs have acquired cult status; he is credited with the “invention de la grand-messe mediatique” [invention of the mediatic high mass] (Poncet 2011) with many a book title referencing his guiding principles (e.g., Gallo 2009).

A very special variant, originally devised as art, is “Pecha Kucha” (a Japanese term for “chit-chat”, cf. Diamond 2010: 226). It aims to stimulate creativity through formal restrictions: a presentation consists of exactly 20 slides and each slide is shown for precisely 20 seconds. “Pecha-Kucha” is now used even in business communication, where it can, for instance, introduce some variety and/or emphasis in the context of larger events (such as during the annual eDay organised by the Wirtschaftskammer Osterreich [Austrian Chamber of Commerce]).

Formats

The term format essentially reflects the dominant medium used for a presentation. Carter (2013:15-18), for instance, differentiates four formats (admittedly for “science presentations”, but the differences in format options are only minor). These are “the written presentation” (which runs into the academic paper), “the slide presentation”, “the oral presentation (without slides)” and “the poster presentation”. Although slides are ruled out in “oral presentations”, the same does not apply to other information supports, so that variants such as the “flip chart presentation” or the “chalk talk” also fall into this category. The most elaborate development of the latter, that is, the use of interactive whiteboards, may actually include slides in the context of integrated visualisations. And the overhead projector lives on - albeit in a modest role - in the form of the document projector.

 
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