A complex praxis

Elements and phases

In order to take account of all its constituent factors, presentation must be seen as praxis, “[t]he Greek word for “action” [...] meaning ‘doing’ rather than ‘making’

[something]” (De George 2005: 751). As such, it is characterized by complex procedural phases and processes, while today “the performatives of praxis are seen to be more directly associated with the entwined phenomena of discourse, communication, and social practices” (Schrag 1995: 639) (see Section 4.3). Although a presentation is not a classical speech and most presenters have no previous training as speakers (see Section 2.1), there are several points of contact with rhetorical traditions. The reason is less that these have been directly passed down, but that they contain, in codified form, certain cognitive principles which time and again have proved both meaningful and useful for communication.

The Aristotelian triad of introduction, body and conclusion (cf. Liebert 2005: 36-37) can be regarded as the core structure for many linguistic interactions. It thus comes as no surprise that “business presentations” can also be divided into “introduction”, “body” and “close” (Lehman and DuFrene 2011: 425-430). They are indeed similar to speeches in the sense that the content to be presented generally requires several levels of preparation. Thus the sequence inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria and actio (cf. Kirchner 2007: 1), although not directly transferable, may at least serve as a guide for presentations too.

The crucial element in presenting is the communicative event itself, which should be actively driven and shaped by the presenter. The keys to its success are prior phases of anticipation, operationalisation and preparation (see below). After - if not during - the presentation opportunity must be provided for interaction and discussion, as well as any necessary documentation. A follow-up reflection on the event may also be appropriate.

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