Often your topic will be based on specialist knowledge or expertise, and although this seems like an easy win in the sense that you’re comfortable with the subject matter, you may end up finding that your knowledge is so superior to your audiences that you are required to ‘tone it down’ a little. Coming to a presentation from the angle of knowledge or subject matter expert is a great bonus; you already have a strong level of pre-existing knowledge, allowing you to give a fluent talk, adding in or removing elements as you see fit. This allows a more natural presentation, moving with less effort from section to section, and often providing natural energy as this is an area with which you have a specific interest or knowledge base.
This also provides an additional bonus that is often omitted when planning a presentation or speaking session, that being the ability to provide coherent, useful answers to audience questions. It is not expected (mostly, with the odd exception) that a presenter should know the answer to everything an audience may ask, but it certainly helps give an air of direction and authority when you are able to fluently provide answers to those pressing questions thrown at you by the attendees. Having preexisting knowledge is a great boon in this regards, and can round out a session with a much more positive atmosphere.
It is not always the case that we will be endowed with a wide variety of knowledge on the given subject before we present, and this requires additional research and effort, which if course necessitates time to be added. Planning is crucial, and the time needed on this front will vary depending on the level of work required to be undertaken. Do not fall into the age old student trap of cramming everything into the last hours before you take to the stage! This is obvious to the audience, does not provide the necessary detail they will be looking for and leaves people feeling short changed, something which happens to us all and never ceases to frustrate.
A particular challenge may arise when the audience has a wide range of existing knowledge of the topic, with some individuals comfortable with the level you are presenting and others who feel they are in at the deep end. This may need an element of readjustment, but it is worth remembering that it is nigh impossible to be able to cover every element every audience member may be looking for.
Having a poor grasp of the content and context of what you are presenting will almost certainly ensure your audience leaves without gaining much in the way of useful information. It is expected of you that you would do the requisite planning to provide a useful session, with information and examples, case studies and scenarios, and the ability to answer some of the more typical questions for the topic. It may be the case that you need to simplify your topic for the audience at hand, or it may be necessary or pertinent to focus the session on a smaller number of key areas instead of trying to overreach and end up under delivering.
This is the sixth and final post in a weekly series looking at some ideas around presenting and preparation. All thoughts are the personal views of the author. Follow me on Twitter @s_gibbins