Think First – The Right Steps to Effective Communications

Think First! – The Right Steps to Effective Communications

By Dan Davenport

Companies today present ideas in many ways. Sometimes they do it well, sometimes not. One of the easiest ways to make sure ideas are well presented and well received is to organize goals and thoughts BEFORE attempting to create a presentation.

This outline will help you do that. It is designed to help organize and unify thinking about the ideas to be presented. The results of this process can also be given to an outside producer or writer to ensure that the desired message is communicated in the most efficient and effective manner. By devoting a little time early in the planning stages of a project to honestly answering these questions, the people who will prepare and present the idea will have a much better chance of achieving the presentation’s stated goals.

Many times, surveying the audience prior to answering these questions will provide better insight into where problems actually lie, and also provide a yardstick against which the success of the presentation can be measured — “If you didn’t measure it, you didn’t do it!”


1. What is the PRIMARY problem that we are addressing?

It could be as simple as a New Product Launch, Sales Program, etc… Or as complex as a poorly motivated audience where this attitude must be dealt with BEFORE anything else can take place. Addressing this question would lead to….

2. What specifically do you want the audience for your idea to do after learning about it?

Use action verbs like; DO, GO, SELL, INCREASE, HAVE, BELIEVE, THINK, ACT, etc. in a short concise sentence.

3. What, if any, are the secondary issues?

4. What is the dimension of the problem?

This is usually the dollar cost of what will be addressed. This will give you the yardstick against which success will be measured. This also provides background for….

5. What are we willing to spend to address the problem?

Again, a dollar figure that will drive the budget for the communications that will be produced to address the problem.


6. What is being introduced?

This includes hard goods like cameras, copiers, luggage, fruit cocktail, etc, or ideas and concepts like sales programs, incentives or marketing strategies. It even includes ideas like companies or activity groups, the services of which are being sold to a potential client or customer.

7. What pertinent information is available about the idea?

This includes brochures, press releases, preliminary information sheets, pictures, tour brochures, management directives, procedure outlines, marketing bulletins, sales guides, etc. This information is critical, and should be made available to the production group immediately.

8. If you only had two minutes to get an audience to understand the subject of this program, what would you stress in that brief time? What is the most important? Be as specific as possible.

9. What additional relevant information must be given about the subject?

10. Are there any specific demonstrations of reliability or quality that can, or should, be included?

11. What is the competitive environment for the subject of this program?

12. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these competitive products or ideas? What do they have that we don’t? What do we have that they don’t?

13. Why should customers buy OUR product or idea instead of our competitor’s?

14. Is there an historical perspective for the this product or idea? What in the company’s or the industry’s past was the logical predecessor to this event?


15. Where and how will the idea be presented? In what form?

16. What is the Due Date for this Presentation?

(This may be different from the presentation date because of preliminary approvals, if a live event, travel time, set-up and rehearsals, etc.)

17. What is the size of the group that will receive the information?

18. If it is a meeting, is it a closed meeting, incentive or award meeting, required meeting, individual presentation, etc.

19. What is the specific personality of the audience?

Comment on things like education, occupation, motivation, likes and dislikes, happy to be here or not, self motivated or externally motivated, etc.

20. As mentioned in Question 1, is there a need for Motivation BEYOND the scope of the presentation… i.e. is the audience already highly motivated, or is a lack of motivation part of the problem?

21. Will there be any tie-in giveaways, awards, prizes, premiums, or others?

22. Are there any additional uses for this presentation? i.e., is it a Video that can be distributed through other channels? Does the presentation have any PR value, for instance, could it be used at a Press Conference? Is this worth pursuing? If this is not a Trade Show Presentation, could it be so used? If it is a Trade Show Presentation, could it be used in any other way? Are there any other connections like this that can be made, and therefore help to amortize the cost of production over multiple uses?

23. Any additional comments or suggestions that will help this presentation do the best and most effective job possible.

You can see that answering these questions honestly and using the answers to guide the preparation and presentation of the communication will virtually guarantee success. You can also see that you have a yardstick against which to measure the success of the program — as I said up front, “If you didn’t measure it, you didn’t do it!”

Copyright 2008 Dan Davenport

Dan Davenport is an award-winning business communications producer: Multimedia, video, print.

Goal: Bring excitement to business communications.

Look to [] to blog with us about small office communication ideas and answers – share your own experience with others and get answers to your questions.

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