The most important guiding questions to prepare your presentation

The proper preparation of your presentation is as important as the presentation topic, the design of the content and the performance of the presenter. In a small series, we want to look at the essential guiding questions you should answer if you want to give a successful presentation. Guiding questions are sometimes more important to a project than answers. Questions give us the direction in which we think, analyze and work. With the right guiding questions, you can better solve problems, develop strategies, and to some extent prevent mistakes. Have you ever heard of the seven journalistic W-questions? I don’t know what the current situation is, but in the past, the W-questions were part of every serious journalist’s toolkit. They are:
  • Who (has done something)
  • What (did he do)
  • Where (did he do it)
  • When (did he do it)
  • How (did he do it)
  • Why (did he do it)
  • Where (is the information)
  • .
By applying these guiding questions, journalists can gather the information they need to write an informed article. What is true for the writing guild is quite similar in other industries. In almost every profession, it is important to ask the right questions. Specifically for presentation preparation, we have compiled nine guiding questions that you can use to prepare and then write your presentation.

1. who? (Presenter(s)

The point here is to identify what type of presenter is delivering the presentation:
  • Who will be presenting?
  • What personality does the presenter have?
  • Are rhetoric, voice, language and body language convincing for the target audience?
Is the intended presenter the right choice for the topic and target audience? Would there perhaps be a candidate who would be more suitable? Sometimes it can also be useful to have two presenters, for example, a salesperson and a technician or a product manager and a product developer. This way, the different personalities and competencies can complement each other in a meaningful way. This increases the credibility and persuasiveness of the presentation. A team presentation can positively reinforce the effect. It also symbolizes appreciation to the audience. Make the following considerations:
  • Who is giving the presentation? You alone?
  • What type of person are you?

What for? (Goals)

The more clearly you have formulated your specific goals, the more focused you can be on your presentation. What goal or goals are you pursuing with your presentation? What should be different after your presentation than before? What do you want to achieve with your presentation in the short, medium and long term? Under certain circumstances, a very important question is also: What is your client’s goal? Is your presentation a persuasion or an information presentation? The immediate goal of your presentation may be:
  • inform (information presentation)
  • educate (information presentation)
  • educate (information presentation)
  • forcing, for example, decisions, processes (persuasion presentation)
  • change, for example, feelings and attitudes (persuasion presentation)
  • implement, for example projects (solution presentation)
  • motivate, inspire, persuade (persuasive presentation)
  • sell (persuasion presentation)
Higher-level goals could be for you in the process:
  • Impress with expertise
  • .
  • establish or consolidate expert status
  • .
  • be remembered as a thought leader, influencer or admonisher
  • .
Presentation objectives can be quite specific: After the presentation shall/should:
  • convince the prospective customer that I/we are the right partner
  • .
  • the project be approved in the amount of € 4,000,000.
  • that the public change their mind in my/our favor.
  • the team members have all the information they need to continue working.
  • the client approve the time overrun for the project.
  • the majority of the decision makers support the project.
Presentation goals can also be less specific. For example, the desire that after the presentation:
  • the board receives all the important information about the project.
  • the audience to get more detailed information on our homepage.
  • the listeners the project purpose has become clear.
  • the participants have learned something.

Clear objectives bring the advantage that you can more easily separate the unimportant from the important, the relevant from the irrelevant, and focus on the essential.

Be very specific about what you want to achieve with your presentation.

3. from whom? (Target audience)

As a presenter, you need to understand exactly how your audience thinks and feels. A clear objective is important and good, but without considering the audience, your presentation success is in question. The word presenter, of course, implies that you have an audience. And you should know as much as possible about that audience. Consider:
  • What characterizes your audience?
  • .
  • What do you know about your audience?
  • .
Try to gather the following information in advance:
  • Who will you be presenting to?
  • Which age group and gender do the audience predominantly belong to?
  • Which occupational group(s) do the audience members belong to?
  • What are the functions of those present or in which divisions are they active?
  • What level of knowledge, how much expertise and how much practical experience in the relevant field the audience is likely to have?
  • What interests, what beliefs, and what expectations do the audience have?
  • What drives the people in the audience? What moves them?
  • What are their priorities?
  • What creates trust with you?
  • What are they afraid of?
Try to involve people in your preparations who know your audience more closely. For example, you can ask your own sales or service staff. If you are to give a presentation for an external organizer, try to get the necessary information through this channel. The answers to all the guiding questions listed will provide you with the basis for your decisions regarding the content and structure of your presentation, the design of the media, the presentation setting, and the presentation style.

4. What? (Content)

. Appeal to your target audience with your presentation content:
  • What is your topic and what do you have to say about it?
  • What is your key message?
  • What are the main content points?
  • What could be a catchy, easy-to-remember title? What ideas do you have for subheadings?
  • What are your arguments for or against something?
  • What facts and evidence help support your message?
  • What examples and stories can you cite?
  • What aspect might be a good introduction to your topic?
  • How can your content be aptly summarized at the end?
  • What could be effective closing words?
  • .
  • What is your theme?
  • What are the main messages of your presentation?
  • .

5With what? (Media)

Select the appropriate media for your target audience: What visual or multimedia aids, what technology, do you want to use in your presentation? What medium(s) do you want to use to convey the content in addition to your speech text? Think also about the reusability of media. First of all, it should be clear whether you are presenting digitally or in analog form. Analog media include, for example, flip charts, pin boards, posters, banners, props and demonstration objects. For digital media, we distinguish the presentation medium and the playback medium. The presentation includes beamer projection on a screen, the use of an LED wall or a TFT flat screen. The playback medium in turn consists of hardware and software, i.e. the device and the presentation program. Devices can be: laptop, notebook, tablet (iPad, Android tablet, Windows tablet), smartphone, touch monitor (known from TV during election coverage) or visualizer (a high-end overhead projector with built-in camera and many additional functions). Presentation programs that can be used include PowerPoint, Keynote (MAC) and PDF reader. The technical requirements at the presentation location are especially important. Any technical limitation on site must be taken into account. Find out:
  • What about the power connection (extension cord, multiple socket)?
  • Are there speakers in the room in case you want to show a movie?
  • .
  • Are projector and screen available?
  • Can you connect a laptop?
  • Is a presenter available?
  • Does the room have blackout options (shutters)?
  • .
So consider:
  • What media come into question?
  • .
  • Which will you use?

6. How? (Design)

Design your presentation media to appeal to your target audience:

  • How should the content be conveyed?
  • How do you handle and design the presentation media?
  • Where can you relate to the audience?
Choose a method that fits the occasion, the time available, your goal, and the audience. Decide between free speech and a presentation with the use of media (PowerPoint slides, flipchart, whiteboard, video, audio, etc. – see also “With what?”).
Are there any specifications you need to consider? If so, what are they? As a presenter, you may have guidelines from the company you are employed by or work for on a contract basis. The design freedom may be limited, for example, if a corporate design must be considered.


  • What type of design is appropriate for your presentation?

7. Where?

The place and the premises you can often not choose freely. Depending on the location and facilities, the venue can help or hinder your presentation. If you have the opportunity: Choose a venue for your presentation that suits you, your topic and your audience. Ask specifically:
  • What environmental conditions are encountered at the presentation venue (accessibility, parking)?
  • Does the interior style match the theme? Does the room size fit the group size? Can extra chairs be brought in?
  • What media can be used in the room?
  • Does the designated room offer sufficient space, light, ventilation and freedom from noise? Can freedom from disturbance be assumed?
  • Does the room have an appealing atmosphere?


  • Where do you want your presentation to take place?
  • Can you alternatively switch to another location?

8. When? (Time)

If possible, schedule your presentation during a time when your audience is at a peak of performance. Ideally, your presentation should fall during the times of peak performance: between 8:00 and 11:00 am for early risers, around 11:00 am for late risers, or between 6:00 and 9:00 pm in the evening.


  • What day and time would be best for your presentation?

9. How long? (Duration)

An important aspect is the duration of the presentation. The time frame affects the duration and structure of your presentation. Important guiding questions:
  • Can you (help) determine how long your presentation goes?
  • If so, what do you yourself think makes sense in light of your topic, your goals and – above all! – your target audience?

The trend today is towards shorter and more efficient presentation formats. Regardless of the topic, presentations to senior executives are often limited to 20 minutes. Content must then inevitably be brought directly to the point. Take, for example, a presentation on how to set the budget for an internal project. If you have 20 minutes, you need to convincingly convey to the decision makers what the project is about, what the goal of the project is, what the benefits are, and what the benefits are for the company.

So consider:

  • How much time is allotted for your presentation?
  • What duration is reasonable?

With the guiding questions presented, you have a workable basic framework that you can expand with detailed questions according to your needs. Plan enough time to cover all the important guiding questions and answer them comprehensively.

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