Power Play #1 Begin at the End


Begin at the End

Bestselling 7 Habits of Highly Successful People author Stephen R. Covey famously counseled that successful people “begin with the end in mind,” by which he meant that if you want to accomplish something great, it’s best if you first figure out what that something is. Metaphors abound: know what you want to make before you start cooking. Create a set of plans before you build a house.

Yet when it comes to making presentations, most people do it backward. They start by asking, What am I going to say?

Honestly, that’s the wrong question. Totally overwhelming! There are millions of things you could say when you don’t yet know the end result of your presentation.

Think about the GPS system in your car or on your phone. What’s the first thing it asks you to do? It asks you to input your destination. Then, once it knows where you want to go, it gives you the exact directions on how to get there. But it can only do that if it knows where you want to go. You will be most successful in figuring out what to say in your presentations by first figuring out what you want to accomplish with your presentation. The best presenters give presentations to accomplish a quantifiable result, not just to recite a bunch of details and information.

So before you even begin drafting the presentation content, always start by thinking about what result you want the

presentation to achieve. Ask yourself, What is my outcome? What do I want people to do after they hear me speak?

The best presentations drive action. Average speakers get people excited or a little bit interested. Outstanding speakers do that too, but they also get people moving. The ideal is for your audience to take action to improve their situation, get rid of a problem, or fulfill a want or need—using an idea or a solution you offer them.

Years ago, back in the days before PowerPoint, I watched a seasoned presenter talk for three hours completely without notes. He was an amazing communicator who moved people to action without having to look at or think about what he was going to say!

When he was done, I asked him how he was able to do that and he told me, “I knew my outcome. Because I know what I want to happen, I’m able to focus on that, and what I need to say stays easily available to me in the moment.”

Four guidelines for creating a powerful outcome statement:

  1. Be Zero in on the action you want your audience to take, and consider what they need to get out of it, too. Hint: know what your audience expects from your presentation, what result they would like you to achieve, and what problems they want to solve. If you’re not sure, ask someone who represents them.


  1. Be audience-centric. Average presenters focus on what they want to get out of the presentation, while outstanding presenters focus on what they can help the audience get out of the presentation. So instead of having an outcome like, “This customer bought my product,” you’re better off creating a win-win like, “This customer eliminated their problem and delivered a 20 percent return on investment by implementing our solution.”


  1. Be exciting. When writing your outcome statement, choose words that make you eager to accomplish your objective. You must believe in it if you want anyone else to believe in it, too.


  1. Be certain. Write your outcome statement in the past tense, and you’ll act as if it has already happened. You’ll be more confident and better able to create the future you desire.

For example, if you’re meeting with clients to tell them about ideas you’ve generated for their ad campaign, a good outcome statement could be: my client enhanced her brand and increased revenues by 10 percent by implementing our advertising concept. It’s specific, action-oriented, short, positive, upbeat, and in the past tense.

So start there: for every presentation, you give, create a written outcome statement using these guidelines. You might be wondering if this is really necessary for every single presentation, even if it’s brief. Yes, it is—absolutely! Establish and write down your outcome for every single one, and you’ll go into your presentations with a huge edge.