Structuring a Presentation: planning for success

What makes for a good presentation? This question is perhaps the key to getting it right. I’ve spent years working with colleagues in workshops on creating ‘dynamic presentations.’ Most needed assistance with the basics: how to stand and deliver (with or without a slideshow backing them), and how to integrate the interesting part (them and what they have to say) with a slideshow or other ‘prop.’ The slideshow is no more than this … a prop or assistant to the presenter. Please remember this; it’s there as your assistant not the other way round.

The issue of slideshow design is a topic unto itself. I ‘ve written before on good design, and Dean Shareski says it very well for me. Here’s Don McMillan on how not to use PowerPoint; yep it’s a stand-up sketch from YouTube. And from the great Lifehacker site, here’s a blogpost which covers a lot of ground.

Good presenters make good presentations, and good presenters plan well. Structuring the flow of the presentation, whether it’s 20 minutes or 60 (good luck with this … you are pushing your audience’s attention span and goodwill if you don’t get it right), there are a few things to remember when planning. These are oldies but goodies and worth restating:

  • Get your audience’s attention. Introduce a ‘hook’ … this can be a fact, figure … questions are good and so are outrageous statements, an image, a short video … but go easy on the videos unless they are absolutely to the point of your presentation … if not, they can be more puzzling than enlightening, and leave your audience wondering what’s going on.
  • Outline your intentions at the top.
  • Introduce your points one by one. Use an image if you can with a trigger phrase and then speak to the topic, DON’T, please don’t read the slides.
  • As you approach the end, recap your points. Finish with a question or a clinching statement that the audience will remember. You could return to the ‘hook’ at this point. Round it out.
  • Plan with time left for questions if it’s that kind of session, and let’s hope it is. A good presentation should be designed to evoke comment and conversation.

I’ll have some words for optimising the human presence in the whole equation … the ‘stand and deliver’ part of a presentation in another post.


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