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Three short words to strengthen your presentation structure

Three short words to strengthen your presentation structure

April 15, 2016

Do you know what you want to say, and the order you want to say it in? Try this quick test of your presentation structure:

Rearrange the order of your slides and/or your presentation notes. Do the headings still make sense? If your answer is yes, then you don’t have a strong presentation structure because your content lacks a narrative thrust.

Your audience needs to see that your thinking makes sense, as well as your conclusions. In order to demonstrate this, you need to lead your audience from the start to end of your argument. It’s like guiding them on a mental journey.  This will make your presentation structure feel both natural and logical.

Introducing a narrative

One of the best ways to take people on a journey through your presentation is by using three small, common words. These words are ones we’ve known since childhood. They featured in the first stories we heard and influenced our understanding of narrative.

Listen to anyone tell someone else a story – on a bus, in a bar, on the street – and you’ll hear them. Yet we often drop them from our presentations, perhaps forgetting that the best way to take our audience on a journey is through a simple narrative.

The three short words that strengthen your presentation structure are:

1. So

So is the word that moves us on to the next point: “That happened, so the result was this” or “we can seen that this is true, so the conclusion is…”.

Note: “Therefore” does the same job, but is more than twice as long: don’t use long words when a short one will do!

2. But

But is the word that challenges your audience’s preconceptions. It marks the beginning of a surprising, contrary point: “You would assume that this is true, but you would be wrong”. By surprising your audience you grab their attention.

3. Then

Then takes us to the next stage in your story. It focuses on a particular moment, makes it real and helps the audience to visualise it: “Then we realised what we had to do”.

Your presentation structure

Now, have a look at your presentation and ask yourself whether each slide is a so, but or then slide. Where does each fit into your narrative?

If your presentation is full of interesting information that doesn’t progress the audience through your thinking, then put it in an appendix instead.

Struggling with presentation structure?

We can help. We’ll advise and coach on all aspects of your talk or speech, from your presentation structure and message right through to your delivery. We’ll ensure you communicate clearly, confidently and with impact.

Call Louise on 020 7193 0130 or email louise@nullbenjaminball.com to find out more.

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