Phil Waknell’s Four Aims of Presentation


Phil Waknell says there are four aims of presentation: to be heard, to be understood, to be respected, and to be remembered.  Dissecting these four aims is in conjunction with Nancy Duarte’s Presentation Ecosystem is important, as we can apply each of Waknell’s four aims in the three areas of the ecosystem: delivery, content, and visual presentation.

Delivery should be heard, understood, respected, and remembered

Of course, delivery-wise, your voice must actually be heard with the ears of your audience in order for that audience to get anything from your presentation.  You have to project your voice and speak loudly.  If you are in a large venue, make use of a microphone.  Your audience must hear you before they can begin to understand you.

Additionally, your delivery has to be open, positive, and energetic in order for your audience to respect you.  Don’t cower behind barriers such as notes or a podium.  Your nonverbal communication speaks louder than your voice.  The nonverbal determines whether or not your audience respects you.

Your audience will also remember your delivery if you stand out from the average boring presenter.  How can you do this?  Your delivery must be natural and reflect your authentic self.  Steve Jobs it!  Have a conversation with your audience.  Your delivery must also be passionate.  Benjamin Zander it!  Have fun with your audience, interact with them, and incorporate play into your presentation.  Learn more about delivery here.

Your content, your message, must also be heard and understood.  This is important because even though an audience might physically hear your message, that audience may not process or understand what you’re saying.  Studies show an audience must hear a message SEVEN TIMES before it is truly digested.  You must make certain that in your presentation, your audience hears your meaning at least seven times.  Only then can they understand.  Drive your point home by including content repeated in seven different ways.  Say it in a story, say it in a quote, say it with data… Just say it a lot!

Remember to use ethos, pathos, and logos in your message to allow the audience to understand.  The most important of these three modes of persuasion is, of course, ethos.  Ethos relates to a speaker’s character and credibility, so in order for your audience to respect you, your ethos must be established early on.  Your content will be remembered if you follow Sir Ken Robinson’s lead.  Tell stories and infuse humor into your message.  We remember stories, and we love to laugh.

Your visual presentation must be heard, understood, respected, and remembered

Your visual presentation also needs to be heard.  Garr Reynolds touches on this with his signal versus noise theory.  Reynolds says that the signal is the primary message of the slide, and noise is anything that gets in the way of your audience hearing that message.  The 3-second test can be applied to ensure your audience is processing your message.  Can your audience look at your slide and understand its meaning in 3 seconds or less?  If so, you’ve made an effective slide that uses glance media to concentrate on signal as opposed to noise.  Examples of noise on a slide include too many words, bullets containing complete sentences, too many images, purposeless animations, busy data, and other slide junk.  Each of your slides should pass the 3-second test in order for your visual message to be heard over the noise and understood.

Your visual presentation must be respect.  Gain respect through providing data, charts, and graphs in an easy-to-digest fashion.  Above all else, gain respect by appealing to your audience’s most dominant sense: sight.  Your visual presentation must actually be visual.  If you put a slideument on the screen and pass out copies of your slideuments, guess what your audience is going to do?  Disrespect your visual presentation AND your speech as a whole.  They’re going to read your words faster than you can speak, ignore you (because a person cannot read and listen at the same time), and start playing on their phone because you’re speaking too slowly, and they’re caught up.

It’s also important that your visual presentation be remembered.  Which of the following slides do you think an audience will be talking about 10 minutes after the presenter is finished speaking?


Visually-driven glance media that passes the 3-second test

Remember that the three legs of your presentation (your delivery, content, and visual presentation) must adhere to Waknell’s four aims.  You must be heard, understood, respected, and remembered.

Image Credit 1, 2, and 3

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