Small Business Presentaions
Types of Presentations


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Types of Presentations

Presentations come in nearly as many forms as there are life situations. In the business world, there are sales presentations, informational and motivational presentations, first encounters, interviews, briefings, status reports, image-building "dog and pony shows," and, of course, the inevitable training sessions.

Though we most often think of presentations in a business meeting context, there are countless occasions when that is not the case. For example, a church vestry presents the need for a capital fund-raising campaign to the congregation; a school district superintendent presents a program to parents about the introduction of foreign-language instruction in the elementary schools; an artist demonstrates decorative painting techniques to a group of interior designers; a horticulturist shows garden club members or homeowners how they might use native plants in the suburban landscape; a police officer addresses a neighborhood association about initiating a safety program; a homeowner presents a proposal for an addition to his home requiring a variance to the municipal zoning board; and a self-help expert presents a video (for $49.99 plus shipping and handling) about how "you too can become a millionaire."

Presentations can also be categorized as vocational and avocational. In addition, they are expository or persuasive. And they can be impromptu, extemporaneous, written, or memorized.

But when looking at presentations in the broadest terms, perhaps it's more important to focus on their purpose. Kitty O. Locker, of Ohio State University, points out in Business and Administrative Communication that there are three basic purposes for giving oral presentations:

o To inform
o To persuade
o To build goodwill

Informative Presentations
Scott Ober, of Ball State University, the author of Contemporary Business Communications, divides informative presentations into two distinct categories--reporting and explaining. He says that the reporting presentation brings the audience up to date on projects or events, telling how things are going. These situations might include shareholders meetings, executive briefings, or oral sales reports. The explanatory presentation provides information about products and procedures, rules and regulations, operations, and other nitty-gritty data.

Informational presentations include talks, seminars, proposals, workshops, conferences, and meetings the presenter or presenters share their expertise, and information is exchanged. In a business format, it might be a supervisor explaining new forms, products, regulations, or filing procedures to employees. During the sales process, the sales person may provide information on the product or service to a prospective customer. In a retail situation, newly hired sales clerks may attend a presentation on selling techniques or loss prevention. And in an educational setting, an informative presentation may report on changes in the reading curriculum.

Persuasive Presentations
These are the presentations in which you attempt to convince the audience to buy your product or service, to support your goals or concepts, or to change their minds or attitudes. Persuasive presentations, which are sometimes called transactional, are often motivational. For example, during a sermon a priest might attempt to persuade the congregation to accept the teachings of the church in order to reduce racial tensions. Or a college dorm proctor, during a presentation to new freshmen, may try to motivate the students in her care to avoid drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex.

In a business context, a supervisor may make a presentation on teamwork in order to motivate employees to support new cooperative efforts within the company structure. It may be a situation in which the board is asking the shareholders to support changes in the way dividends are distributed. It could be that the distribution arm of an organization is making suggestions about packaging changes that would reduce shipping costs. Or perhaps the marketing department is trying to sell top management on a new promotional campaign.

Goodwill Presentations
We've all seen this kind of presentation. Every year, the fire company in my little town has an awards night at which key members are honored for their service. And the library has an annual community service recognition dinner at which local leaders are praised. Schools, soccer teams, and country clubs have awards banquets to recognize the top competitors. Companies honor retirees with a dinner. At special ceremonies, outgoing presidents of civic and charitable organizations are given plaques for their years of service. Departments, units, or teams within a business organization are often rewarded for their success at meetings at which their work is showcased. Each of these events usually includes some kind of presentation, most often in the form of a speech and sometimes with a slide show, video, or multimedia event.

Goodwill presentations, which often take the form of after-dinner speeches, are often designed to be entertaining--for example, by sharing video highlights of the football or tennis season or anecdotes from the president's ten years at the helm; by recounting the town's recreational program from its early years to the present; or by "roasting" the top sales person. Sometimes they are ceremonial--for example, when inducting a new officer, dedicating a memorial plaque, presenting an award, or delivering a eulogy.

The purpose of goodwill presentations is pretty obvious. That purpose is to build goodwill, to make people feel good about themselves, and to build respect for the organization and/or the product, as well as for peers, colleagues, and superiors.

Multipurpose Presentations
Presentations, however, usually have more than one purpose. A presentation to employees may be announced as an informative session on new regulations, but in fact may also be an all out effort to persuade workers to buy into the new rules.

An introductory presentation about new software programs may be a not-so-subtle nudge to employees who have been slow to become computer literate. The fire department's awards banquet may indeed recognize the hard work of its members, but it may also represent an attempt to raise funds and recruit new volunteers. The library's gala community recognition night may coincide with its annual fund-raising campaign. And the informative presentation that reports the status of a sports sponsorship public relations program may be an attempt to persuade the powers that be to increase the funding for the project.

Now that we understand what presentations are in their broadest terms, let's look at specific presentation situations.

Probably the single largest category of presentations is the sales scenario. Though throughout life we are "selling" ourselves to teachers, prospective mates, neighbors, or colleagues, in the business world, we are most often selling our products, services, or ideas.

Sales presentations can start out simply as first encounters--those one-on-one get-to-know-each-other meetings over lunch or a no-frills quickie meeting in a prospective client's office. If things go according to plan, your first encounter might progress to a full-blown sales presentation with the top brass, the entire sales team, and a multimedia show. But chances are, you'll just schedule a follow-up meeting at which you will present your proposal and position yourself to close the deal.

Though sales techniques are complex (and a subject for another book), two essentials for success in a sales presentation are knowing and understanding your audience, and building rapport.

In training sessions, presenters teach participants a variety of skills. Topics might include:

o Sales techniques
o How to deal with diversity in the workplace
o Time management and stress reduction
o Team building
o Negotiation or leadership
o Meetings management
o How to give presentations

And that's only the beginning. Some companies have entire divisions devoted to training, with course catalogs as thick as the Sunday New York Times.

Outside the realm of the business world, the choices are even broader. One might attend training sessions on subjects ranging from yoga to gardening to French conversation to wall paper hanging to MS-DOS to Bible study. In and out of the business world, people, more and more, are looking for ways to balance their lives, and they find that attending various training sessions is one of the routes they can travel to reach their personal goals.

In many business situations, training is a captive situation in which the audience has no choice but to participate. In order to reach the audience, the presenter must make a connection and build rapport, just as in a sales situation.

In the realm of self-improvement and creative or fun training sessions, participants are often the self-actualized types who are looking for fulfillment and entertainment. These folks, are a pleasure to present to.

This type of presentation is often designed to serve more than one purpose. It may be planned to inform, build a positive image, and create goodwill. For example, an after-dinner talk at a museum's fund-raising event may focus on recent acquisitions, but also be designed to thank current donors and to place the museum in a positive light in the minds of prospective donors.

Entertaining presentations are often scheduled by clubs, service organizations, adult education programs, and social organizations as part of their weekly or monthly meetings. They are also frequently included in the activities schedules for retirement communities.

Political Arena
Presentations in the political arena are primarily grouped in the persuasive category. But to be effective, they must include lots of information and also build goodwill.

Who can forget the sight of Ross Perot making his balanced budget presentations, complete with easel-mounted bar graphs and pie charts? He offered more information than most of us could absorb and some people found him entertaining. But was he persuasive? Not very!

Bill Clinton is famous for his comfy, personalized presentations featuring real people with real-life stories to tell. He generates lots of goodwill, is very persuasive, but is not always informative.

Jesse Jackson makes memorable presentations that include no props or fancy staging, but are built simply on an oratory style lifted right from the pulpit. Persuasive? Informative? Goodwill generators? You decide.

In our media-crazed society where every move is televised for all the world to see, political presentations take on gigantic proportions. Most politicians running in major market races call on professional political consultants to manage their public (and private, in many cases) appearances so that they present the right image for each audience, deliver the right message in the right context and format, and develop the right rapport with each audience segment.

Because the electorate is complex and heterogeneous, a politician working at the city, state, or national level will most likely need to have several presentation styles and messages in his bag of tricks in order to win over the diverse audiences. At the small-town municipal or county level, politics are no less complicated but don't tend to include the same type of political consultant assistance. A candidate should have a pretty good idea of who his or her audience is and tailor the presentation to the "What's in it for me?" factor.

Image Building
Image building is a something of a catchall category because it covers so much ground. These presentations can be, at once, informative, entertaining, certainly goodwill oriented, and, of course, persuasive.

Often in the realm of public relations and marketing professionals, an image-building presentation represents an effort to position a company, an organization, or an individual as a leader in an industry or field, as an expert on a certain subject, as a good-guy, or as a good neighbor. In the end, however, most image-building work is tied to some kind of sales effort--whether it's selling a product, a service, a person, or a concept. And image-building presentations will frequently be used as launching pads for extensive public relations publicity efforts.

A chemical company may ask one of its scientists to make a presentation to a high school chemistry class on the positive role chemicals play in our daily lives. This makes the chemical company look like a good neighbor and works toward alleviating negative impressions that could effect sales. Such a visit is almost always accompanied by an extensive public relations effort to generate publicity.

A doll manufacturer may address a national parenting organization on the issue of positive role models for girls in order to build the image of caring and responsibility. Here again the PR folks will be busy sending out press releases and trying to set up interview opportunities linked to the presentation.

Or a wanna-be political type may be found presenting his ideas on Medicare to a group of retirees to position himself as a friend of senior citizens. His press secretary will have notified the media well in advance.

One of the clients I served when I worked in the public relations department of a large advertising agency was a trade association representative for the diaper service industry. Her job was to make image-building presentations around the country, positioning cloth diapers as a superior substitute for the disposable type. Whenever and wherever she spoke, my job was to schedule television and radio appearances and newspaper interviews in that market.

And another client, the 7-Eleven Corporation, held regional meetings at which elaborately staged multimedia presentations were given for the benefit of franchisees and their employees. The purpose was to maintain the company's positive image and to inspire franchisee loyalty. In this case the audience was limited to franchisees, not to the general public, so there was no need to alert the media.

Image-building presentations take many forms, running the gamut from simple, sincere speeches in a classroom to sound-and-light multimedia shows in giant auditoriums.

Motivation Presentations
Here's another far-reaching category. Political candidates may give motivational presentations to their volunteer staffers to keep their level of commitment high. Spiritual leaders, of course, give motivational talks or sermons. A superintendent of schools may make a presentation to the district's teachers in order to motivate them to think of themselves as teachers first, union members second. A real-estate broker may bring in a motivational expert to help his staff get out of a sales slump. And then there are the self-help types, like those whose videos fill TV airtime on Saturday mornings with get-rich-quick schemes.

Motivation is another form of persuasion, but one that somehow takes on a more fervent, highly charged tone. Motivational presenters must know what makes the audience tick and zero in on their hot buttons. They also must use high-energy presenting tactics in order to capture the audience's attention for the entire message.

When a company spokesperson, political candidate, writer, artist, inventor, or other expert appears on a radio or television talk show or is interviewed for a magazine or newspaper article, that person is making a presentation.

A job interview is yet another presentation form, one where the presenter should make an effort to identify her immediate audience (the interviewer), but also take great pains to know as much as possible about the larger audience (the company).

* Source Adams - Presentations

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