Don’t ever give an FYI presentation

An interesting question came up yesterday in the Extreme Presentation workshop here at Microsoft. Should you ever give a purely informational presentation, an FYI presentation?

In the workshop I argue that every presentation should be focused on helping to solve a problem that your audience has (not a problem that you have – that would be one of the seven deadly presentation mistakes). Everyone is very busy, everyone has problems.  If you're not helping them solve one of their problems, then why should they spend time listening to you?  

Here's why you should never give an FYI presentation: either the information you are presenting will help your audience solve a problem–in which case you are helping solve a problem, and your presentation is not merely FYI–or else it is not, in which case why do they need the information?  

Ask yourself: why does the audience need the information I am going to present to them?  What does it allow them to do?  Could they do this without my information?  If so, would my information allow them to do it better, faster, cheaper?  Whatever it is that they could not do without your information, this is the problem that your presentation is helping to solve.  

If there is nothing different that they could do once they have your information, then you probably should not be giving the presentation.

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