Message and Medium

by Sharlyn Lauby on September 2, 2009

Many of us see and give presentations on a regular basis.  It’s amazing to me, given the number of presentations out there, how many people don’t know the basics of delivering a well thought out presentation.  There are two key elements:  message and medium.

Message is the point you’re trying to get across.  What do you want people to come away with from your presentation?

Medium is the communication tool you use to get that point across.  It might be PowerPoint, video, lecture, etc.

My feeling is you can have a lousy message but if the medium is dynamic and entertaining…people will leave your session happy but with no clue what they were supposed to learn.  You know who these people are.

Attendee:  “What a great session.  You must see him/her.”

Me:  “What did they talk about?”

Attendee:   (Insert sound of crickets here.)  “They were so funny!”

PresentationThe reverse also applies.  You can have a rock solid message and if you don’t use the right medium to get it across, then people probably won’t get it.  This usually translates into people walking out of sessions or texting their BFF or making their grocery list while you’re talking.

On some level, this not only applies to presentations but to resumes as well.  If you have great info but use some hokey font, you run the risk of a recruiter not taking you seriously.  There’s a great discussion about fonts over at Ask a Manager right now…check it out.

As much as we want to think it’s only the message that counts, medium can sometimes trump even the best messages.  The bottom line is, for your presentation to be engaging and understood it needs to have both a good message and an appropriate medium.

Image courtesy of NASA Images.

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