Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

How Goizueta Business School’s MBA Program Measured Presentation Effectiveness during their Annual Marketing Strategy Consultancy Presentation Day Competition – Did They Get It Right?

In Presentation Tips on May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

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I only got to see two presentations when I served as a judge for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School’s MBA program’s annual Marketing Strategy Consultancy Presentation Day Competition.  With six teams competing in total, I felt lucky that one of the presentations I saw won second place in the competition.  I’m not surprised that the team placed.  The group provided their client with valuable content, presented their information in a well-organized manner and engaged the audience with flare and fun.

In a previous post I asked folks to weigh in on what you thought the good folks at the Goizueta Business School might have used as weighting when evaluating the three criteria we used that day to judge the presentation.  In other words, what percentage of the overall evaluation might the judging have put on presentation skills, on organization and on content.  Well here is how judging criteria were actually weighed.

15% – Presentation Skills

25% – Organization

60% – Content

What?  Only 15% on Presentation Skill?!  And 60% on Content?!

It might surprise you to hear that as someone who has focused on studying the art and science of public speaking for the last 10 years, I feel the distribution of the weighting is about right.  Content should be the element that contains the bulk of the weighing when it comes to presentations.

Think about it.  Have you ever sat through a presentation that while the person didn’t have the best of presentation skills, she gave such valuable content that you furiously took notes to keep up with the information that was being imparted?  Have you ever listened a speaker give his story and even though he didn’t tell it in an especially organized manner, you were emotionally moved by his challenges and struggles?  I know I have.  Content is really important and it should take up the bulk of the assessment of value.

The Importance of Content in Business Presentations

Content in a business presentation really should carry the heaviest of weights – but let’s understand what that really means.  After all, I know the other presentation I saw that day had plenty of content yet it wasn’t nearly as effective as the one that placed second.  So what makes some presentation’s content better than others?

Audience Relevancy

The effectiveness of content has to start with considering the relevancy of the material to the audience.  In the two presentations I saw during the competition, the students were specifically asked to address a business problem for their client.   Each group did.

But that’s not always the case.  I don’t know about you but I’ve attended plenty of presentations where the presenter talked about himself, his department or his company without any regards to why that information would be of value to me.

So one measure of good content has to be its applicability to the audience.

But take that a little further for a business presentation.  You might also want to consider how the content applies to the client of the business audience to which the content is being presented.

In the second place presentation, the presenters where clear in both their executive summary and throughout their presentations what the benefits of their recommendations were not just their clients but to the customers of their client.

In the presentation that did not place, the benefits to the customer of their client weren’t even mentioned in the executive summary and were buried several minutes into the marketing presentation.   In a business presentation, it may not be enough to make the presentation relevant to the immediate audience.  Particularly with a marketing presentation, you also need to make it meaningful to the customer or your customer.

Understandability

One of the challenges that experts have in making business presentations to those who don’t have their expertise is making the information understandable.  While these students didn’t have years the years of experience that their clients did in their industry, they did have thorough knowledge of the research they had conducted on behalf of their clients.  What the team that won second did that the other team did not do was they broke down their research by market segment and equated the people in that market segment to people that were relatable to the audience.   We could picture in our minds the age, the lifestyle and values and maybe even particular friends and family members who belonged to the different market segments the students described.  The other team didn’t describe the market segments in a way that helped the audience or their clients identify with the people and organizations that would be interested in their product.

Whenever an audience is learning new information, we as presenters can help them understand if we frame the new material in terms that the audience already has a reference for.   Content needs to be presented in a way that non-experts can understand.  We do this by helping the listeners comprehend based on their own life experiences.

Actionable Applicability

My good friend Wendy Kinney always says, “Specific is more profitable than general.”  That is certainly true when it comes to business presentations.  People want their time to be well spent.  Giving your audience specific actionable steps makes your content more valuable.

In the competition, the 2nd place winning team gave specific recommendations that their client could implement to reach those specific market segments that they so comprehensively described.

The team that did not place made general statements that left me wondering what would the client actually need to do to implement the recommendations.  It wasn’t clear from the presentation.

If I state here that you should make your content more actionable – that’s a pretty general statement.  If I say, give your audience specific action steps that they can take to implement your recommendations, that would be better.  If I knew exactly what your specific presentation was about and new the precise audience you were going to address, then I could be very detailed in drawing out of you what it is you really want your audience to do and in what order.  I could tell you where I thought there were gaps in your logic as you went step by step.

Find someone who can give you that critical feedback.  Find someone willing to say “what does that mean,” and press you until you are as specific as can be in making content that your audience can actually do something with.

Now It’s Your Turn

Do you agree with content being more heavily weighed than the other components of presentation skills and organization?

Why or why not?

What should they be instead?

Add to the discuss in the comments section!

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