8 Points for Presentation Structure

by Peter Watts

Preparation is everything.

While we focus on our content, and sometimes fuss about our slides, it’s essential we never forget about the framework holding everything together.

  • How will we introduce and conclude?
  • How should we segment the content into logical bite-sized pieces?
  • How do we pull together our fundamental arguments?
  • How can we handle the questions at the end?

That’s why I’ve put together this page with links to the various Presenters’ Blog topics on the subject of presentation structure.

Behind each of the following links, you’ll find ideas and tips for successfully navigating the stages of successful presentations:

Introductions
The skills you need to find your feet during the crucial opening moments.

The Main Message
Identifying the key themes you want your audience to walk away with.

The Argument
Presentation protein is held in the sinews of your argument. Here’s how to make it compelling, relevant, and nutritious.

Divide and Conquer
Lessons from the actress Carrie Fisher as she controls content by dividing it into manageable stepping stones within her one-woman show.

Be Competitive, But Don’t Present Your Competition
The best competitive pitching structures follow the golden guideline: “Counter competitors, but avoid attacking them”.

Concluding Your Presentation
How to ensure your final words, are memorable words.

Handling the Questions At The End
Audience members ask questions for a whole variety of reasons. Step-by-step ideas for how to handle those different types of question.

Handling The Question That Mustn’t Be Answered
Occasionally we are asked a special type of question: The hostile question. What to do on the rare occasions when an audience member lobs a curve-ball.

If there are additional structural topics that you’d like to hear about, do let me know in the comments box.

Presentation structure: Concluding your presentation

by Peter Watts

Congratulations! You’ve navigated the majority of your presentation. You’ve delivered a clear introduction, and guided your audience through the evidence that backs up your arguments. Now it’s time to wrap-up the show with your conclusion.

The conclusion of your presentation is the section that the audience will remember the most clearly, for the simple reason that it will have been the last thing they heard. It’s also most probably the last thing you will have planned and rehearsed, and for that reason conclusions can often be surprisingly weak. Presenters can often be observed to deliver strong presentations that suddenly come to an abrupt halt! This type of conclusion is known as an “Emergency Stop”, when the presenter, realizing that they have said all they intended to say, flounders for a moment before uttering a simple “Thank you for your time”, and awkwardly leaves the stage.

As an observer it can be amusing to watch the audience at such moments. Many literally jump in their seats, exactly as if they had indeed, been passengers in a plane that has just made a bone shaking landing after an otherwise smooth flight!

Think of the stages involved in an aircraft coming in to land. First of all the passengers are instructed to put on their seat belts and prepare for landing. The crew walks the aisles checking everyone is strapped in and all lose items secured before the captain guides the plane down to a, hopefully, smooth connection with the ground. Finally, as the passengers depart, the last thing they hear  is “Thank you for choosing this airline, and we hope to see you again soon.”

If you keep this model in mind, then you will have all the stages necessary for your conclusion:

Prepare for landing

As you start your conclusion, state firmly that this is what you are doing. The conclusion is a vital part of the presentation, so make sure everyone is primed, listening, and has their seat in the upright position.

Land the plane

You want to make sure that the wheels on which your argument rest will connect firmly with the ground. To ensure those wheels are down and locked into position, re-state the key points in your argument, summing them up in the sequence that they were delivered, and linking them back to your key message.

Thank the passengers

It’s essential to thank the audience for their time, and to tell them what you hope will happen next. What is your objective for this presentation? What realistic action do you want the audience to take next? Is it to book a follow-up meeting, or visit a web-site, or to start a business review process? Whatever your goal, state it as a call-to-action as your final words.

Before the audience does depart however, it is very possible that they may have questions for you. The subject of how to handle those questions will comprise our final installment on presentation structure, next week.

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