Many of the people I coach in the art of powerful presenting are highly intelligent and articulate. They are medical doctors, academics, bankers and lawyers.
But they are not journalists, like myself. They often don’t have an innate sense of storytelling or they know too much and struggle with getting the level of detail right.
This is where structuring your thoughts for maximum impact comes into play. I recommend two ways to structure your thoughts that will guarantee the audience is focused on the key messages, and not on trying to decipher meaning in a disorganized presentation.
All trainers love mnemonics – memory devices. Here is one to help you structure a presentation.
Introduction – get the audience’s attention with a bang and make sure the benefits are clear.
Main messages – outline your purpose and your key messages – what do you want the audience to take home so that you achieve your purpose? Do you want to inspire, sell, persuade or inform?
Points – what are your main points? How are you going to structure them? Chronologically, most important to least important, geographically or thematically? Remember to support your points with facts, data and stories.
Associate – make sure your supporting examples are relevant to your audience.
Conclude and recap – summarize and repeat your key messages.
Take-away – finish with a bang. This can be a call to action – what do you want your audience to do, feel or say as a result of your presentation?
It follows the old adage – tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you have just said. Believe me repetition in spoken communication helps make your messages stick.
All communication involves an element of persuasion. Barbara Minto developed the pyramid principle in the 1960’s. It is effective if you want to persuade somebody with an argument. It works well when writing, presenting proposals or recommendations, making an elevator pitch or responding to a busy executive’s question.
You start with an introduction that takes your audience through the following steps:
Situation – describe the situation so it is easy to understand. This can be something that the audience already knows or you know that they will agree with.
Complication – introduce the issue or issues that make the situation problematic.
Question – ask the question that leads to the answer you want to give in your proposal or recommendation. It can also be the answer to the question the executive wants answered such as “what should we do?”
Answer – this resolves the complication you identified.
The body of the presentation deals with the solutions you are proposing. As you know, people rarely remember more than three points so divide your solutions into three, and for each ensure you have supporting information to make your case.
At the end you can recap the solutions, your key messages and either end with a call to action or outline next steps.
As this is not a mnemonic, it will be easier to understand visually.
Call to Action
As I said earlier, it is vital that you and your audience know what you want them to do as a result of listening to your presentation.
So, as a coach/trainer, who walks the talk, if you would like to
find out how to structure your thoughts clearly and compellingly, please do get in touch.
In my next monthly blog, I shall be sharing tips on how to use stories to get your message across.