When you are developing the message, keep in mind how you will deliver it and where you will deliver it. The delivery of a formal presentation differs from that of an informal presentation. Location also has an influence on delivery.
Formal presentation. You get on the stage in front of a podium. The audience sits in chairs and listens. You speak; they clap. You walk off the stage. Session over. That is a formal presentation. The location of a formal presentation can range from an auditorium that seats 2000 to a boardroom that seats 5. If you are standing and delivering a prepared message, the presentation is formal. When you present formally, you connote authority: "Listen to me. I know what I am talking about." Formal presentations are effective for presenting concepts, opinions, and information.
Informal presentation. There is no podium. The audience may be standing or seated on whatever is available. You wander around the room as you speak. There is no single point of reference for the speaker. Sometimes you are in front of the audience members; other times you are behind them. What do you communicate when you shift your physical presence? That you are one of them. Yeah, you're just like the folks to whom you are presenting. Informal presentations may be as well rehearsed and well prepared as formal presentations, but the intent is different. You assume a consultative role. When you present informally, you connote collegiality: "Hey, I'm just like you." Informal presentations are effective for presenting a point of view or for enlisting support for an idea. They are ineffective for presenting abstract concepts.
Formal/informal presentation. A leader who is in touch with how the audience is receiving the message will often alter the presentation format, sometimes on the fly. For example, you may start on the stage and end up in a chair. Or you may start on the floor and end up on a chair. Alternating between formal and informal messaging works best when you are trying to persuade, to win the group over to your point of view. You begin with an overview of the offering or idea, and then you home in on the benefits. As CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch varied his presentation style according to the situation. Like many corporate leaders, he would make prepared remarks and then open it up for a question-and-answer session where all pretense of formality was dropped. Welch was a big believer in humor and in what he calls "screwing around" at meetings, discussing things like the previous Saturday's golf tournament.
Choice of venue. Location is essential to the choice of presentation style. Will you be in an auditorium or in a cafeteria? Will you be speaking in a ballroom or on a factory floor? The location can make a difference. Auditoriums and ballrooms are typically used for formal presentations; cafeterias and factory floors connote informality. Good presenters make the location work for them. Throughout his mayoral career, Rudy Giuliani made a point of showing up at scenes where he felt the community needed to see a leader. Of course, after September 11 we saw him every day at Ground Zero, as well as at funerals, memorials, and other public venues.
How and where you deliver your presentation may depend on your preference, or it may be set by the group to whom you are presenting. Knowing in advance how and where you will present is critical to ensuring that your message is understood and creates the right impetus for action.
Carol Hymowitz and Matt Murray, "Management-Boss Talk: Raises and Praises or Out the Door," Wall Street Journal, June 21, 1999. Informality at meetings is also mentioned in Harris Collingwood and Diane Coutu, "Jack on Jack," Harvard Business Review, February 2002.