Help You Structure Your Presentation

I am dealing with presentation structure last because, for most of us, it is the public speaking aspect which is most challenging. That being said, a dull slide pack will represent a challenge even for a gifted speaker. So here are five tips to make sure you design your talk to enhance rather than detract!

In terms of the kind of visuals I recommend you invest in for an important presentation, let me suggest you steer clear of ClipArt which simply does not look professional and polished enough. Copyright free images are available on a number of sites but they may lack the gloss of paying photos. If you find a powerful image, don’t hide it in a corner of your slide: make sure it has prime of place. It could even cover the entire slide with text on top. Or, give it half your slide for good measure.

Many of us use our slides as speaker’s notes and so they are full of text which makes the slide look very unattractive. If you need reminders, use actual notes, cue cards or even a teleprompter but not your slides. Bring out your main message. Build a strong contrast between text and images, text and data charts, and images and graphs. If you don’t, your audience will spend a little time trying to figure out what the slide’s message is but will quickly struggle, lose patience and… give up!

Slide design is NOT akin to slide decoration so watch your use of font types and sizes, as well as colours (or your slide will be reminiscent of a geographical map).Good slide design is simple. It looks brilliant, effortless. And speaks loudly.

Do you know that people remember only 10% of what they hear but recall 65% of what they both see and hear? That’s why slides are important as the right kind of complement to your presentation.

In the preceding article concerning how to deliver your presentation confidently, I encouraged you to tap into and bring forth the animated self you become when you are having a conversation about a topic you are enthusiastic about. And when you are dialoguing, you are usually telling a story. Story-telling is the way we humans communicate most often through. Stories resonate: a story helps you to be conversational even in a setting which does not appear so and establish rapport with your audience.

I read that “presentations are state-of-the-art but stories are state-of-the-heart”. Indeed, even the sleepiest audience will perk up when you say “I’ll tell you about a time when this happened to me.”

Most of the people I work with on presentation know that it is usually a good idea to let the audience ask questions as the presentation unfolds because this brings a liveliness to the proceedings which keeps the audience engaged. However, very few ask questions of their audience. There are two kinds of questions in a presentation speech: the rhetorical questions and the real questions. A rhetorical question is one you don’t expect an answer to. For example, you could introduce a slide with “Did you know?” When we use the question mode, we raise our voice at the end of the sentence and this catches our audience’s attention so questions are helpful in keeping the flow of your speech varied rather than monotone.

Real questions serve a number of purposes but let me flag only one here: you create a feedback loop. If your presentation is about raising awareness of the lack of clean water in the world, you may want to hit your audience with both heart-wrenching stories as well as hard-core data to substantiate your point. And when you’re doing that, how do you know that it’s working, that your stories and data are reaching them? Well, ask. So show them the glass slide and then ask: “Are you shocked by this piece of data?” If you get several nodding heads and wide eyes, then you know your emotional approach will be effective.

Because most of us present in a work and business context, let me share with you a formula to help you structure your thoughts as you structure your presentation slides and the overall talk.

Building up on ‘PREP’ which applies to the individual points you will make in your presentation, let me close by offering a simple yet powerful presentation structure, as follows:

In this setup, each point you assert is clearly made twice as per ‘PREP’ and supported by an explanation and an example providing evidence. You need to order your points in some fashion – maybe chronologically, maybe building up the intensity. What is fundamental is that all your points support a main message which you will share twice – hence the Oreo cookie image and the consistency with the ‘PREP’ approach. This structure is also simple so you won’t lose your audience! It may look a bit dull but try it out and see how it helps you builds a powerful presentation!

There you have it. To structure your presentation for impact, be sure to use images in the right way relative to the text on display, share stories and ask questions, and use a simple structure to both your overall presentation and to making the points which back your main message. Does that sound like it might benefit you?

Author of the “5 Gear Shifts to Accelerate your Career!” report, Alexandra helps ambitious and high-performing professionals tackle their frustration at work so that they resolve a complex problem, find a way out of a difficult situation or achieve a personally-meaningful objective.

As a Career Accelerator, Alexandra works with gifted individuals to obtain the promotion they deserve, orchestrate an in-house move to a different group, succeed fast in a new role as well as get clear about their next job and how to find it.

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