When I work in multinational companies I see managers and directors who have been giving presentations for years making the same mistake over and over again.
What is the common mistake most of them make? – There is no structure to their presentations. And no structure to a presentation means that the audience soon becomes bored and switches off.
What do we mean by structure? We’re talking about the simple rule of:
- Tell the audience what you’re going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you’ve told them
Too many people launch into their presentations without any introduction as to what the presentation is about, why they are talking and how many parts (subjects) there are to the presentation. The endings are often abrupt with no strong, closing message.
A structured presentation also means that each part should be introduced before we start talking about it. We should also indicate to the audience when we have finished speaking about a particular point.
And finally, we end with a summary of the main points and the conclusion (which is different to the summary), it is the main message of the presentation, answering the ‘why’ we are speaking.
Anglosaxon audiences expect structure, it’s second nature to them and part of giving a professional presentation is about following a clear structure with the purpose of retaining their attention in every moment. As I constantly emphasise in my training courses, it doesn’t how much you know about your subject; if it isn’t tailored to the expectations of the audience in a way they can easily follow, then you’re wasting your time.
So the next time you are preparing a presentation, look closely at your structure. It should look like this:
- Introduction of yourself and the topic subject
- Opening – why you are speaking and an overview of what you will be speaking about
- Main body – ideally divided into three parts and giving details
- Summary – a recap of the main points
- Conclusion – the message that you want the audience to go away with
Clarity, and order coupled with effective delivery on the part of the presenter is the key to effective presentations.