24 Feb How To Structure Presentation Effectively
Whilst the value of leaving enough time to prepare a presentation properly cannot be underestimated (we’ve all endured presentations that were clearly not given enough presentation time haven’t we?), it is the actual presentation itself that can cause the most dismay to the audience or indeed the speaker himself. We’ve all reflected on just how well our delivery actually went down.
Criticisms of Structure
“Boring, forgetful, not to the point” …. just some of the criticisms that are frequently aimed at poorly thought-out presentations. In some cases it can be down to the imagery used, simply an uninteresting type-face, or a monotone delivery that drones on slide after slide – but more often than not it is the presentation structure itself that causes the most irritation. If it is not right it can open lead to many of the other failings. Getting the structure right – and giving yourself enough preparation time to do so – is the most important consideration for any presentation.
There are two fundamental approaches to structure. The traditional “linear approach” tells the listeners what they are going to hear, then gives them the facts and concludes by telling them what they have been told together with a call to action or what happens next. This approach is simple, straightforward and effective for many audiences, provided that certain rules are followed (but more of that later). Of course the audience mustn’t feel it is being treated in a condescending way.
Then there is the “non-linear approach”. It might almost seem too risky to adopt an approach whereby the audience dictates the order and subject matter of the presentation, but boldly using this style of presentation can have great rewards in terms of effectiveness, interaction and therefore memorability. Being memorable is absolutely key, whether it is a presentation on sales strategy, a product launch or something of lesser importance. The aim is to ensure that the important messages are taken on board and acted upon as necessary.
Non – linear presentations are interactive and normally without any predetermined flow or sequence. Once the broad subject matter has been spelled out by the presenter, it is the audience that dictates the flow and the discussion points. The presenter responds by showing pre-prepared slides that reflect these subjects and in showing them they open the door to further discussion.
This approach may sound dangerous but with preparation it can be extremely effective in ensuring a truly memorable presentation. With the tiling layout that we used in our very own PitchPro i, the presenter can jump to – and link randomly to – any other slides as and when they need to. This lets the conversation flow through audience interaction and is a technique which, we believe, represents a major step forward in effective presentations.
Furthermore, the tile based approach allows you to section off tiles of text, imagery, infographics, animation and video – again keeping your audience fully engaged with the diversity and flow of the presentation.
But if you stick to the traditional linear approach, there are still things that can be done to capture the audience and keep them enthralled. Start by talking about the vision behind the presentation – “why are we actually launching this product when we seem to have one just like it already?”
Explain the goals and sales objectives, relate to the audience by telling them the role they have to play and what it means for them personally and not just from a corporate viewpoint. Explain the intended results and give them a call to action.
Every good presentation will include these elements and they will be flagged up in the first few slides.
The mistake often made, however, is to not return to this overview at any point in the presentation after the intro. Before too long the listener has forgotten where the presentation is leading. Using ‘reminder and recap’ slides’ mid presentation gives the audience an indication of where they are and how long the presentation will last – keeping them in the dark is a sure-fire way of losing their interest and therefore their commitment to the cause.
The Sales Presentation
A well structured Linear Sales Presentation is signposted so that the audience knows exactly what stage the presentation is at, at any point. It can be very persuasive and powerful when structured like this, providing exactly the impact required. For even greater effectiveness the presenter can then take some other steps too…
For example, don’t get too wound up in product features but instead put yourself in the shoes of the audience and explain the benefits to them. By capturing their attention in this way they are far more likely to be attentive for the duration.
- A good way of displaying the product benefits is by grouping them into categories. Place an introductory slide at the beginning of the presentation that highlights the categories and go into each of them individually using the slide at the beginning of each benefit group. This way your audience is always reminded of the overall benefits of your product, in addition to adding a clear structure to your presentation.
- It is inevitable that you will be asked questions, so do your homework and be prepared for anything your audience may ask in exactly the same way as you would be if you were attending a job interview!
- If it is a sales pitch, don’t be afraid to include testimonials from other satisfied customers – a potential customer is far more open to persuasion from a satisfied third party.
- Embellish your presentation with attractive imagery, appropriate typefaces (not Comic Sans!), visual effects such as charts (but not overbearing), support statistics, references and so on.