The Four Aims of Presentation

In observing many presentations, most of them quite poor, I have come to the conclusion that there are four keys to successful oral communication, which apply just as much to one-to-one communication as one-to-many communication.  I call these the Four Aims of Presentation because you will need to achieve them all if you want to pass your message(s) effectively.

They are:

  1. Be heard
  2. Be understood
  3. Be respected
  4. Be remembered

In a nutshell, here is why each of them is important.

Be heard – because if the listener cannot hear you properly, they will not receive your message properly and cannot be expected to understand you.

Be understood – because if you are heard but not understood, then the message received will not be the message you were trying to communicate.

Be respected – because if you are properly understood but the listener has no reason to accept your message and believe it or act on it, then likely your message will not have the effect you desire.

Be remembered – because if your message is heard, understood and accepted but the listener forgets it the next day, then it will not have any lasting effect.

If you can succeed in each of these four aims, then your message will have been passed successfully. If any one is missing, then likely it will not achieve your objectives.

Of course, this is easier said than done. In future posts I will go into more detail on each of the four aims.

3 Responses to The Four Aims of Presentation

  1. Jessica Pyne says:

    I agree – too many people forget the basics! A presentation is about effectively conveying a message, and your four points summarise this nicely.

    I often feel that the point most forgotten (ironically!) is “be remembered” – why is that presenters assume their audiences have the brain capacity – and inclination – to remember something monotonous?

  2. I’m not disagreeing – perhaps you’d include this in your last point – but I’d like to add a fifth…

    5. Be acted upon.

    Unless and until your presentation engenders some action or some change in someone or something, it’s just so much air…. 🙂


    • Phil Waknell says:

      Thanks Simon! Couldn’t agree more that being remembered isn’t enough if your objectives aren’t met.

      The central part of any presentation is the message and the presenter’s objectives. By achieving the ‘four aims of presentation’, you have a chance of achieving those objectives, which very often include creating action or changing people’s thinking (or making people laugh, etc.). Therefore the four aims are in effect a means to an end, and not the end in themselves. (For this reason I am not completely happy with the name ‘four aims’ and am looking for a new name…)

      I hope that explains a little better why engendering action is not part of this list.

      Thanks once again for a very smart comment!


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