Anticipation

The quality of a presentation can be markedly influenced by profound anticipation, focused chiefly on the various aspects of its setting: who are the participants, what prior knowledge do they have, what are they expecting? Hierhold (2005: 5267) proposes some detailed questions designed to ascertain such characteristics, while Duarte (2008:16-17) suggests constructing fictitious, representative “audience personas”. Hermann-Ruess and Ott (2014: 208-209) give examples of “rewarding dramaturgical elements” - grouped according to audience type - that could serve as a source of inspiration. If the target audience is highly heterogeneous, then the presenter faces the issue of multi-addressing. In other words, their message must be so couched that it is interpreted similarly by different audience groups; alternatively, different groups must be appropriately addressed in succession (cf. Kuhn 1995: 37, 51). This is a particular challenge if members of different groups have different cultural backgrounds.

Another question to bear in mind is whether the presentation is a unique element in a very wide range of management activities or is surrounded by other communicative acts that may be similar (e.g., at a conference) or different (e.g., in a meeting). What sort of room or space will the presentation be held in? What audio-visual media will be available, or must be organised or provided? What data resources are required, and how are they to be accessed?

Core considerations are the presentation’s purpose, the desired effect and how this can be made most lasting for the audience in question. Should one use primarily strategies that are based on argumentation (Greek logos) or rather on emotion (Greek pathos)? (cf. Mayer 2007: 83-134,135-226) Presentations are generally not emotional occasions. But in some cases - key corporate events, calls for donations and the like - emotions do indeed play an important relevant role. Besides, the emotionality implicit even in routine acts of communication should never be underestimated.

Also to be considered is the expected procedure. This ranges from the overall time frame, and the way it is to be divided up, through the evaluation of one’s own mental and physical state disposition, to reflection on the audience’s reaction. Dall (2009: 375-377) lists frequently asked questions to be prepared for. Wallwork (2014: 174) gives some stimuli for audience questions, for instance a “summary slide”, and points out that the concluding phase can be used to make a powerful closing point (p. 46).

Finally, the presenter must decide which materials - if any - are to be handed out to participants before, during or after the presentation. Different media’s strengths may be used to complement each other, for instance by adopting a “two-pronged approach in terms of presentation materials”, a mix of an “extremely visual PowerPoint presentation” and a “more factual hard copy document” (Morton 2014: 214). In-house conventions or institutionalised practices will dictate, for instance, the form of product folders or, in the case of conferences, the collected abstracts. If a more sustainable presence is to be achieved, information may also be shared in standardised formats on Intranet(s) or the Internet.

 
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