Presentation Objectives


By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

1. Identify the degrees of objectivity and persuasiveness appropriate for a given presentation.

2. Compose behavioral objectives in terms of measurable performance by the learner.

Become a Manipulator?

Back in grade school, it was probably enough for you to stand up at your seat and share your treasure with the other students at "Show And Tell." Unfortunately, too many people never advance beyond the Show-and-tell technique for giving presentations. They come as they are, without a plan or rehearsal, and they talk at us without making eye contact. When they are done talking, their presentation is over, whether or not we learned anything.

Instead, picture yourself as a manipulator of other people. As a presenter, imagine that it is your purpose to change the behavior of every individual in your audience. (After all, if your presentation has absolutely not effect on their behavior, how can you justify it?) 

Sometimes effective presenters get us to believe a lie at first, and then show this to be a lie. They use tools of rhetoric to persuade us.

However, in general, technical presentations tend to lack the schemes of rhetoric, and cover an objective report on the facts, including an evaluation.

"So, which is it, Prof? Are we supposed to design presentations to persuade others, or should we design them to be objective and strictly factual?"

Just as with technical writing, the answer lies in the purpose of the presentation and the understanding of the audience. If you are justifying the existence of your department, or if you are making a plea for greater environmental responsibility, your presentation may well use more of those persuasive techniques. However, if you are presenting the results of an experiment to colleagues, it would be appropriate to maintain objectivity.


What are your objectives in giving a presentation? Let's say the presentation deals with new information regarding the proper use of hearing protection devices (HPDs.) Read over the following six objectives. Which do you feel is the best?

Objective 1A:
"To tell the employees the new information about HPDs."

Objective 1B:
"To protect the hearing of the employees."

Objective 1C:
"To fulfill the requirements by OSHA and the union to keep employees informed about safety issues."

Objective 1D:
"To reduce lost time and costs associated with hearing damage."

Objective 1E:
"To reduce accidents caused by hearing damage."

Objective 1F:
"To full the requirements of my job description by giving required presentations to employees."

Well, did you make a decision about which objective is the best?

My opinion is that they are all terrible. The purpose of a presentation like this one should be to effect a change in the behavior of the audience. This presenter seemed to use a show-and-tell approach.

Try reconceptualizing the problem so it becomes centered around the audience member's learning. What will they be able to do after the presentation, as a result of it?

Now look at the following possible objectives for the same presentation:

"By the end of this presentation, each participant will be able to:
2A. Properly insert HPDs
2B. Accurately check for proper insertion
2C. Present a convincing argument to a co-worker for the importance of using HPDs
2D. Identify the decibel reduction rating for HPDs, given their original packaging
2E. Identify the maximum exposure times to noise at different decibel levels, given a standards chart."

What was different about this last set of objectives? They were stated in terms of a measurable performance by the learner. Some people call these behavioral objectives or performance objectives. Although there are other approaches that may be just as successful, you are advised to develop behavioral objectives for your presentations, even before you start putting together an outline, graphics, or text.

Furthermore, note how specific and technical each of these latter objectives is. They are not vague.

All information is subject to change without notification.
© Jim Flowers
Department of Technology, Ball State University