The reason you may be giving a talk might vary from doing it professionally on a wide range of subjects, to presenting to colleagues on a given topic, or being asked to present due to expertise in a certain field. The different reason will frame the presentation differently, as the type of information you are presenting and the reason for the audience being there will also be mixed. For many people, they will have been asked to deliver a presentation based on their knowledge of a given area, and so will already have a base of information from which to begin their preparation and mould their talk.
Even in this scenario, people can find it challenging to prepare the presentation without tilting it towards their own goals or objectives. It is essential to think about the audience and why they would be there, not just why you are there. The levels of pre-existing knowledge will likely vary to a greater or lesser extent, and so this has to be factored in to the preparation, allowing time to think of information which may be of use for those with a relatively low base of knowledge in the subject area. This does not mean you have to dumb down your presentation, but it has to be receivable in a useful format for the audience.
It is also worth considering why the organiser is holding a talk or presentation. Is this part of a wide ranging event or series of events and you are one part? Is this a one off specialist session? Is this designed for training and are there are tangible goals and objectives the audience has to be able to achieve upon completion? If this is the latter, you will need to prepare the presentation so that the audience can have useful knowledge and information which they can use further down the line. Here the ‘Who’ factor is critical, as well as the ‘What’ and ‘Why’.
When approached about delivering a presentation you may also find it useful to ask yourself why, in the sense of why would or should I deliver this talk? This is not from an arrogant perspective but from the viewpoint of why have I been asked and what I can do that will be of benefit for the audience. All too often people are eager to jump in feet first and give presentations on topics, regardless of their own understanding and ability to be useful, because of the ego trip associated with it. It is crucial to consider why you have been asked in the first place, why you may bring something to the group that others cannot and why this would be better than somebody else delivering a talk on the same topic.
This is the third 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