All Articles Leadership Careers Where is your presentation on the value chain?

Where is your presentation on the value chain?

4 min read


You may be preparing for a quarterly review, analyst meeting or product launch. Perhaps you find yourself readying for that next big sales pitch, upcoming conference or trade show speech. As you prepare, stop and ask yourself:

“What is the value of this presentation to my listeners? Am I giving them what they need in a way they can easily understand?”

How you answer these questions may in fact determine how effective you are when you step up to speak. While there many different approaches, consider the following three types of presenters and ask yourself, “Where am I on the value chain?”

Expert. This is the person who understands in detail the who, what and why of a situation. Perhaps it is the marketing manager that knows the ins and outs of the new product being launched, the scientist whose focus is the findings from a recent study or the financial analyst who lives and breathes numbers. The expert lives their content day in and day out and, as a result, are afflicted with the dreaded curse of knowledge. They frequently share a laundry list of information that makes perfect sense to them but usually has no identifiable structure or context for it to be meaningful to others.

If you listen to an expert you may hear them say:

  • I know this is a lot of information, but …
  • I know you can’t read this slide, so let me tell you what it says …

As the expert you find yourself thinking, “If I say anything less, I will be dumbing it down.”

Listening to an expert, you may feel overwhelmed with information and unable to keep up.

Interpreter. If you are an interpreter, you are bilingual — meaning, you have the needed expertise, are attuned to your audience and are able to translate information in a way that is meaningful to them. This person takes the time to clarify a core message, organize the content into logical chunks of information and craft a story that has an identifiable purpose and structure. As they develop their presentation, interpreters consider, “What do my listeners absolutely need to know about this topic? How can I share it in a way so they can understand?”

The biggest difference between the expert and the interpreter is their intent. While the expert is focused on pushing out information; the interpreter wants to convey information in a way that is meaningful to their listeners.

As an interpreter, you may feel confident in your message and your ability to connect with your audience.

After listening to an interpreter you may find yourself saying, “I get it.”

Catalyst. A catalyst recognizes that his or her job goes beyond getting the audience to understand; the mission is to inspire. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Steve Jobs are just three examples of catalysts — creating change and moving people to action. While they are iconic figures, anyone who has the desire to be confident, heard and inspiring when they step up to speak has the potential to be a catalyst.

In addition to the value the expert and the interpreter bring to a presentation, the catalyst is purposeful in what is being said and personal in how it is communicated. This presenter recognizes the importance of crafting a story that is easy for listeners to relate to and act on.

As a catalyst, you are committed to your listeners getting it and engage them in the process, recognizing that results happen through collaboration. You will see a catalyst inviting interactivity, being passionate and having the clarity that has an audience saying, “Let’s get it done!”

Expert, interpreter or catalyst? Where do you find yourself on the value chain?

Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication adviser specializing in high-stake presentations. She has more than 25 years of coaching experience and eight years teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has provided presentation coaching to over 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, high-level government officials and international business executives. Learn more at her website and blog.