The Importance of Hard Skills: Presentations

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My previous blog post talked about the importance of soft skills as a supplement to a tech worker’s toolbox of hard skills. Making PowerPoint presentations, on the other hand, is a hard skill that’s applicable at numerous jobs. I’m going to cover three types of presentations that utilize a unifying framework that every future tech worker should know how to create using Microsoft PowerPoint. These types of presentations include: a consulting presentation, an academic research presentation, and a non-profit presentation. Through my various experiences of presenting in different situations, I’ve developed a simple 3-part framework that should have a place in any great presentation.

The General Framework

Why do we need to use Microsoft PowerPoint? Is it even necessary for future jobs? Most likely, the answer will be yes. The beauty of technology is that it oftentimes communicates information more concisely and more eloquently than we could on our own, and as we move towards a more technologically-versed workforce, knowing how to make a good presentation is going to be crucial in both today’s and tomorrow’s jobs. The framework is as follows: The Context, The Pitch, and The Validation.

1. The Context

Synonymous with the “background information”, a successful presentation should always start by painting the big picture. How does your information play a role in the larger storyline? Your context/background information may manifest in multiple different ways depending on your audience, some of which are highlighted in the examples below.

-The Consulting Presentation:

When giving a consulting presentation, your audience will most likely be the client you’re trying to help. In that case, your context becomes the company and problem overview. Although this context may seem redundant because you’re telling executives about their own company, keep in mind that it’s beneficial to see the big picture from a different perspective as you provide the premise for your recommendations.

-The Academic Research Presentation:

With academic research, your context is providing an overview of previous research, and the findings from your experiments either expand on or dispel that research. This helps your audience, which may include grad students and professors, understand how the contribution you’re making to the field fits in with what’s previously been done.

-The Non-Profit Presentation:

As an employee or volunteer of a non-profit, you may find yourself pitching your mission and cause to potential investors and donors, so it’s important to clearly communicate the social need you’re trying to fulfill. In this case, your context gives an overview of the social need, and should highlight the urgency of the issue before delving into explaining your ground work.

2. The Pitch

Whether you’re trying to persuade a course of action or teach something to an audience, your pitch should be the core and foundation of your presentation. It should not only make up the bulk of information, but should also be the most compelling aspect of your presentation. In essence, your pitch is why you’re presenting.

-The Consulting Presentation:

Solving a client’s problem calls for the most optimal recommendations made by the consultant (you!). After most likely presenting a list of possible recommendations to be implemented, the pitch is your proposed solution. What’s the answer to the client’s problem that will provide the most long-term efficiency?

-The Academic Research Presentation:

Having primed your audience with background research, your pitch here is the hypothesis in which you have tested through statistically sound methodology. You’re informing your audience of the experimental question you’re posing that has hopefully provided further insight to the field of study.

-The Non-Profit Presentation:

You’ve described the social need you wish to fulfill, and at this point, your pitch to potential donors becomes why they should donate to your cause. The pitch is what differentiates you from other non-profits because of the work you’ve done on the ground, and also represents the passion behind the work you do.

3. The Validation

This last piece of the puzzle is the quantitative part of the presentation. It is the credibility of you and the organization you’re representing, it is the reason why your audience should listen to your presentation, and it is ultimately the validation of your pitch and the work you have done through extensive research and analysis.

-The Consulting Presentation:

How did you come up with your list of recommendations, and how did you pick one? The validation consists of extensive analysis of the industry, firm, and consumers. They manifest as historical trends of sales reports, or side-by-side comparisons of close competitors. The validation is the criteria for which you picked your most optimal solution. It is why your client hired you; it’s because of the credibility you establish as well as providing hard data for why they should listen to you.

-The Academic Research Presentation:

It is the “research” part of “academic research”. The validation is a summary of your findings manifested as results that describe the procedure, methodology, and a possible p-value stating its statistical significance. Once again, it not only provides credibility to your hypothesis, but also is why your audience should listen to your presentation.

-The Non-Profit Presentation:

The validation of a non-profit presentation is the delineation of not only the research that supports the effectiveness of the non-profit, but also the work they have accomplished in fulfilling the specific social need. It’s the quantitative aspect that, like other examples, establishes their credibility and provides substantial reason for pitching to potential donors.

Key Takeaways

Despite the eclectic range of examples, the framework still applies to all of them. It should be noted that the three aspects above do not make up an entire presentation. As a rule of thumb, a successful presentation should also include a concise agenda that can be referred to throughout the presentation so both the presenter and audience know exactly where the flow of information is going. Furthermore, presentations should always end with the key takeaways, as a wrap up to whatever they just presented (like I’m doing now). What was the main point to be communicated? A call to action? A recommended solution? Great takeaways will leave your audience with a sense of closure and thorough understanding of your presentation.

Presentations can be and are used in many job contexts and knowing how to structure and compile your information in an eloquent way by using Microsoft PowerPoint is a necessary skill for tomorrow’s workers.

Use PowerPoint to your advantage. Tell the world about your story, pitch it to them, and validate it all with thorough research.

Steven Yang is a 3rd year undergraduate student at the Haas School of Business. Contact him at [email protected] for further contact/inquiries.

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