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Key Presentation Planning Questions to Ask Yourself First

Always ask yourself these key presentation planning questions no matter how many times you've presented. During the entire development process there are many questions you need to answer. However, there is small set of questions that are the most important when you begin presentation planning.

Key Planning Questions to Ask

You may have watched or heard about Simon Sinek's TED Talk about Why. While his talk was more about product development the same philosophy can be applied to giving a presentation. It is essential you are explicitly clear on why you are giving the presentation and that you have a clear purpose.

What’s Your Overall Message?

If you don’t ask yourself any other question when you begin planning your presentation, this is the one question you must ask. Garr Reynolds phrases this question in his book Presentation Zen as “What’s the point?” (read my book review)

If you aren’t clear on your overall message, it will make every other step of the presentation development process more challenging. And, when you give your presentation, the audience will walk away frustrated, bored, and unmotivated.

For every speaker, what the main point or message is will vary. As the presenter, it is your job to determine and clarify that message. By asking this planning question, your overall presentation will move from adequate to exceptional.

One strategy to figure out your core message is to try to clearly communicate it in 10 - 30 seconds, essentially an elevator ride. Once you can do that you’ve got your core message down.

Why Does it Matter?

With this next question, you are essentially asking “so what?” When you ask yourself this question, you are providing justification for your core message. You are showing why your overall message is important.

A brainstorming session is good way to identify all of the reasons why your message is important. On a piece of paper or a word processor document, start listing all the reasons that come to mind. Don’t focus on level of importance or relevance at this stage.

If you are struggling with coming up with reasons why your core message matters, then you need to work some more on your core message.

What’s the Purpose?

It is important to not confuse your main message with the purpose of the presentation. The purpose is important but different. For many presentations, the core purpose can often be categorized into one of these areas: relationship building, informational (sometimes referred to as educational), motivational, or selling.

You want to think about the context of your presentation. For instance, you are a personal life coach and you’ve been invited to present at a local health & wellness expo. Obviously, you would love to get some new clients from the audience. However, is a selling focused presentation the best approach? Probably not.

No one in the audience knows who you are. They aren’t there to listen to a pitch. They are there to learn something. Honestly, you will get more clients by teaching something of value instead of pitching.

At the end of your presentation, all you need to do is make sure people know how to contact you and give a soft call to action. For example, ‘if you are interested in learning more about my services, you can find more information here or contact me directly via email.’

planning questions


When developing a presentation there are many questions you need to answer. Just as you are beginning the planning process, you need to ask yourself the key presentation planning questions before any other questions.

These questions, What’s Your Overall Message?; Why Does it Matter?; What’s the Purpose?, will establish the foundation you need to give a great presentation. A good overall message can be stated in 10-30 seconds.

Clarifying why your message matters is justification for that message. Lastly, being clear on the purpose of your presentation, e.g. motivational, makes it easier to continue the presentation development process.

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About the author 


Jennifer has 15+ years of public speaking experience - ranging from groups of 5 to 5000. She draws from her experience as an instructor, academic, and librarian to help others with their presentation skills. When not presenting she loves creating and designing online courses, video, images, slide decks, handouts, conference posters, and infographics.

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