Setting the stage, setting expectations

I know when you’re presenting - whether the presentation was written for you or you scripted it yourself - you have an agenda, so you don’t want to go off on a tangent and run out of time. Nor do you want an audience member to hijack your 15 minutes with a random, never-ending question.

One of the best things I can tell you is to control any damage - bulldozers, rambling topics (by you) or rambling questions (from the audience) - up top. I call this “Setting Your Stage.”

When you are the speaker, you’re “on stage” in a sense. And it’s your stage, so take it! And when you do, establish boundaries and expectations up front. This will prevent problems later on.

There I am, setting my stage. It’s a good thing.  Photo by Elliot Mandel Photography.

There I am, setting my stage. It’s a good thing. Photo by Elliot Mandel Photography.

So, here’s some “scripting” for you. Please feel free to rip this off and use as much or as little as you want; many a great training was ripped off from someone else before. I should know. I’m the one that did the stealing. :)

  • “Before we get started, I’d like to lay out some of the logistics for today. This [training/meeting/talk/knitting circle] will run from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. We’ll take breaks [or not] and I’ve allotted time at the end for questions, so if you think of a question you’d like to ask, please write it down and we’ll tackle it during Q+A time.”

  • “There are 4 components to [this thing I’m talking about]. They are Q, X, Y, and Z. In the interest of time, I’ll be discussing Q and X today; if you would like more information on Y and Z, I will provide resources at the end of this talk.”

  • “I have handouts with a list of further reading. Everyone will receive one at the end of the presentation. For now, please look up here as I walk us through [whatever it is].”

Adults need to know what’s expected of them, and what to do (or not). Establish all of this up top, and you’ll be in a better position to control the presentation and the room.