Most presentations are a variation on the problem-solution format. The presenter surfaces a problem that affects the audience, explains it in some way (its scope, implications, causes, etc.), and prescribes a solution to it (what to do, how to do it, and the benefits of doing it).
There are many ways to define a problem. The definition that I’ve been working with lately is a version of one proposed by a friend who teaches game theory to both the military and to businesses. And it’s this:
A problem is anything — a set of circumstances, an object, an action, a process, a person, a rule, a condition — or a combination of all of those things that prevents you from achieving what you desire.
A locked door is not a problem if you’re a homeowner wanting to protect your family and your possessions. It is a problem 1) if you’re the owner of the home and you’ve locked yourself out, or 2) if you’re a burglar and you want to break in.
Something — anything — only becomes a problem when it keeps someone from getting what they want.
That means that when you’re talking to a mixed audience, you may need to define the problem in a couple of different ways, depending on what the different people in the audience want. The CFO, the VP of sales, and the head of R&D may all agree that a situation at a manufacturing plant is a problem. But they may — they probably will — define it differently because of how it affects them and their areas of responsibility.
So to begin creating a problem-solution presentation, you need to understand at least three things: 1) the situation as it is, 2) the people affected by it, and 3) their desires and objectives.
Have I left something out? How do you define a problem?