US Marines Five Paragraph Order and Presentations

Clint Eastwood as US Marine Gunny Highway

Situation and Mission

The US Marines use the Five Paragraph Order to communicate verbal battle orders with an acronym SMEAC.

  • Situation
  • Mission
  • Execution
  • Administration and Logistics
  • Command and Signal (Communications)

For more information see wikipedia

I’ve also used it a lot for non-military planning and I believe we can improve our presentations by using it as a guide. The last three points of the acronym are fairly straightforward and a lot has been written about them, but not so much on the first two.

Situation

The military analyses the enemy forces and our own. When you are giving a presentation to make a sale or to convince a person or a group to take a course of action, do you analyse those people? For instance:

  • Who will be there?
  • What are their names and positions?
  • Have you met them? Do you need to before the presentation?
  • What is their role in the organisation?
  • What is their role in the course of action or sale? Are they the final decision maker, or do they have user or technical roles that can say no?
  • How influential is each of them?
  • What is the personal win for each of them if your proposal is approved?
  • Is there a downside for them?
  • What message does each need to receive?
  • Can these messages be grouped?
  • What is each’s likely course of action?

So before you’ve even looked at the structure of your presentation, you need you analyse your audience in detail.

Mission (Aim)

The mission or aim is an short unambiguous statement of what you wish to achieve, and answers the questions “Who, What, Where, When, and Why”. For example:

“To convince the Board to allocate $5 million for development of new markets in Asia to increase profits by 4%”.

Before you commit to the aim, you need to test it as follows:

  • Is it the best I can do?
  • Does I have a reasonable chance of succeeding?
  • If it succeeds will the result be favourable?

If the answer is negative to any of these questions, review your aim.

Semper Fi

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