An effective presentation formula

I’m usually not a fan of formulas but they can come in handy sometimes, particularly if you just don’t know how to get started and proceed.  Doing presentations is about much more than following a formula, but here’s a basic recipe to get you started.  Feel free to slice it, dice it, spice it and just generally change it – or read it and set it aside if that works best for you.

Engage your audience

Open with a controversial or other attention-catching statement.  For example:  “Good afternoon, my name is __________ and I want to talk to you about efficiency.  If you’re like most people, you spend 80% of your time earning 20% of your profits . . . “

Tell a story

Another way to engage attention is to tell a story that illustrates your point.  Telling a story helps people to clearly visualize what you’re saying.   Those stories become testimonials to your listeners.  The greatest speakers in history have been the greatest story tellers.  So plan to illustrate as many of your points as you can with good stories.

Emphasize the importance of your topic

You have to tell them directly why your topic is important to them.  To pick up on the example above:  “Think about the time and energy you could save just by turning that 80/20 situation around.  You could triple your income and minimize your aggravation just by reversing that trend.  And it can be done . . .”

Make a promise

A promise will pique interest, keep people listening and, if you sequence your information well, summarize continuously.  It will also link the elements of your presentation and allow listeners to figure out how to do it for themselves.  “I’m going to show you three simple steps that will allow you to . . .”

Outline your presentation

People like to be told what they’re about to hear before they listen to details.  So give them an overview at the outset.  If your talk is technical or procedural, it’s also a good idea to repeat and summarize the most important points.  This is like the glue that holds blocks together.  The adage “Tell them what you’re going to tell them . . . tell them . . . then tell them what you told them” is very true.

Introduce the first section

After you’ve presented your overview, segue to your first section, perhaps with a quick repeat of your overview: “Now, I’ve just told you that I’m going to talk about Organizing, Setting Priorities and Delegating.  So let’s move straight into it and take an in-depth look at how to get organized . . .”

Provide details

You have to decide how much detail you want to provide and how to organize it.  The depth of detail will depend on your audience and how much information they want and can absorb at one time.  It may be essential to provide a specific depth of detail but you must be careful to avoid information overload.

Use props

Remember also that, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a prop is worth a thousand pictures.  Don’t hesitate to use simple appropriate props – perhaps a ball, a whistle, a pen . . . whatever – to illustrate a point.  Just be sure it does illustrate your point and that it doesn’t become a visual distraction.  But if it works, don’t hesitate to use it.

Break it down

It’s always a good idea to break your material down into headings that can be absorbed easily by your listeners.  The Rule of Three is a good one to use wherever you can in your presentation.  For some reason, the human brain can easily absorb information that’s presented in threes.   When you go beyond that number, the average listener begins to lose track.
Here’s an example:  “Getting organized is simply a matter of observing your current activities, recording those activities and taking action to make them more efficient.  Now, observing your activities is a fairly easy thing to do, but it takes some commitment.  What you’re going to do is write down how you spend your time . . .”.

Summarize the highlights

Summarize what you’ve said and “check in” with your listeners to make sure everyone understands.  “Is this clear for everyone?  Does everyone see how observing, recording and taking action fit together?”
Repeat the process for each section
Repeat steps 5, 6 and 7 above to introduce, elaborate on and summarize each of your presentation sections.

Summarize

After you’ve presented and summarized your final section, link all of the areas you’ve discussed with an overall summary and show how this summary and the content of your presentation fulfills the promise you made at the beginning.

Issue an enthusiastic call to action!

The main purpose of presentations is to inspire people to take action, but too often speakers fail to take this important step.  After you’ve summarized, challenge your listeners to apply what you’ve shared with them:  “Think about the time you’ll save and the revenue you can generate, just by becoming more efficient.  You owe it to yourself and your business to make the most of your resources so please, go back to your office, think about what I’ve said and get started!  Take the first step to greater efficiency first thing tomorrow morning!’

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