The first step in creating effective
presentations is to be really clear on what
you want to achieve, where you want the
presentation to lead to..
Think of your presentation as guiding your
audience from point A, what the audience
currently think, feel and do in relation to
your topic, to point B, what you want the
audience to think, feel and do as a result of
experiencing your presentation.
When you need to achieve specific
outcomes, know where you’re going and
then you can plan your route. Don’t let your
presentation become a magical mystery
“The only reason for the existence of a
presentation of an idea is that it be an
answer to a problem.” – Henry Boettinger
All problems consist of a mismatch between
2 things: Where we are now, and where we
want to be. The purpose of your
presentation is to show your audience how
to get to where they want to be.
Your presentation should address a real
problem that the audience cares about and
really wants to solve. Even an ‘update’
presentation may be able to help your
audience to do things better, cheaper or
Rather than a person who just provides
information, you can build a reputation as
someone who helps solves problems.
Ker - ching!
Walking talking rabbits, time travel,
schizophrenia, bizarre therapy sessions – no
it’s not your company’s latest marketing
update presentation, I’m talking about the
movie Donnie Darko. Despite having a cult
following, it features on many ‘most
confusing movies of all time’ lists, and the
main message of the movie is still being
debated by it’s own fans! You want to make
sure you don’t do a ‘Donnie’ on your
audience. With the high costs of attending a
presentation in terms of time and money,
your audiences want and deserve complete
An effective presentation develops one core,
big idea and supports it with 3 or 4 key
Will the audience be able to summarise in a
word, a sentence or phrase what your next
presentation is about?
Be a giver of
You may have a very clear, specific objective,
but your presentation isn’t really about you,
it’s about your audience, and what’s in it for
them. Remember people will listen to you
for their own reasons, not for yours.
Look for ways to add value to your
audience. Focus on their needs and
wants. What questions do they need
answering? What concerns do they have?
What would make their time with you
Focusing on your audience and giving value
has two big benefits for you too. First is you
stop worrying about how you’re coming
across , you’re too busy thinking about how
you can serve their needs. And second, you
start to connect at a deeper level, talking
with them rather than at them.
So... why would your audience want to do
what you want them to do?
Brainstorm, group and
REFINE.Brainstorm: Brainstorm all the possible
content that could help you achieve your
desired outcome. Use post-t notes to capture
ideas. One idea per post-it. Set a time limit
and go for quantity over quality – just get all
those ideas out of your head. The brain dump
must be part of your preparation not your
presentation. Don’t judge ideas, consider
them all as contenders rather than finalists at
Group: To start to turn the chaos into some
form of order, you can group connected ideas
into clusters or themes (3 or 4 is good). This
is the advantage of using sticky notes and
index cards – you can move them around.
Refine: Now that you’ve defined the possible
content, it’s time to reduce that down to just
the critical ideas. Be ruthless with your
editing - what doesn’t add to achieving your
outcome will detract from it.
Are you sitting comfortably?
An effective way of structuring your
presentation is by thinking of it in terms of a
story, with a clear beginning (Act I), middle
(Act II) and end (Act III). People are already
familiar with this three-act structure through
the stories told to us in film, documentaries
and books. This is how a presentation
could look using this structure:
Act I: Opening, problem statement (where
the audience is now, and where they want to
be), your solution key point overview
Act II: detailed information to support each
solution key point
Act III: summary of problem and solution
key points, Q&A, conclusion and call to
“Stealing thunder” is when you bring up a
point against your recommendation and
then systematically get rid of it. It’s a
concern you’d have to answer at some point
anyway, but now you’ll be seen as more
credible and understanding than if it was
raised by someone else first.
As you prepare, include all the information
to support your viewpoint, but also
anticipate the likely objections, concerns or
questions your audience will have and how
you will answer them.
Some people don’t always voice their
objections or concerns during the
presentation. Stealing thunder is a practical
way to help potential silent objectors feel
heard, open up and gain their support.
Use the principle of
PLEASURE & PAIN.This is one of the most valuable ideas, in fact
it’s the key to selling your ideas. The
We are all motivated towards people,
experiences and companies that can help
us feel pleasure and/or avoid pain.
We’re basically all rushing around trying to
find ways to feel good. Think about a sales
presentation. What pleasure feelings does
your audience want to feel? They probably
want to be able to trust that you have their
best interests at heart. They want to feel
understood and have confidence and
certainty they’re making the right decision
to buy from you. What typical pain feelings
do they want you to help them avoid? Things
like: feeling misled, misunderstood,
vulnerable, confused, bored, stupid.
So how can you help your audience to feel
good about themselves, you and your ideas?
Use simple elements of
The B-I-G message: We are all (A-L-L)
designers. Each and every one of us gives
off dozens – probably hundreds, perhaps
more – of ‘design cues’ every day. In the
way we present ourselves, our project
We are all designers. Yes, even you! Every
time you present your slides or a document
it says more about you than you might
realise. Here are some simple ideas to give
your visuals a more designed look:
• Reduce the amount of text on slides by
creating a handout for the detail
• Slides should resemble a newsreader’s
background graphics rather than their
• Keep headings, colours, fonts type and
• Replace text with relevant quality images
Give the numbers
When you show slides showing data, it’s
important to see them from your audience’s
perspective. People aren’t interested in the
data on it’s own, they’re interested in what
the data means to them.
To make it easier for your audience, consider
using handouts to show complex data and
use your slides to interpret the data,
highlighting the information that’s important
for your audience to know.
Another way to display data effectively is to
strip the visual clutter or ‘Chart Junk’ away
from your charts and graphs so the main
point the data is making can be understood
at a glance.
Don’t make your audience work too hard!
Franken-slides: The result of trying to cobble
together slides from different presentations.
How many people, as soon as they hear they
have a presentation to give, immediately
start looking for a ‘presentation donation’ -
in other words slides from presentations
that they or their colleagues have delivered
The result can be visuals that look cobbled
together and don’t seem to belong to the
same presentation. Inconsistent fonts,
colours and overall style create the
equivalent of continuity issues that
sometimes crop up in films and TV.
Look for ways to create consistency
throughout your slides and avoid creating a
monster of a slide deck!
Greek philosopher, Aristotle, claimed that to
persuade, you must use 3 types of
argument: credibility and honesty (ethos),
emotion (pathos), and logic (logos). Facts
aren’t enough to persuade on their own.
Most people tend to buy for emotional
reasons and then justify with logic. In other
words, think + feel = do
So when you plan your presentation or
training, think in terms of creating an
experience for your audience rather than
just delivering information.
What positive target emotions do you want
your audience to feel? A sense of wonder?
Motivated? Trust? Confident? You can use
things like stories, metaphors, benefits,
humour, evocative images and surprise to
help create those emotions.
Go on. Bring out your inner theatre director.
Let people see the
“Just be yourself.” How many times have you
heard that! It’s true, we connect better with
people who are being real, but when it
comes to giving presentations, it’s not as
easy as it sounds.
People that are naturally warm, engaging
and interesting can suddenly switch to
‘presenter mode’ - using words, phrases and
odd body movements they they would
never use normally. They end up boring their
audiences while their personality and
reputation is tragically flat lining.
To let the real you shine through:
• Adopt a more natural conversational
style rather than give a rigid speech.
• Avoid ‘big’ words and jargon – use
normal language your audience will
• Express your emotions – let the audience
see and hear how you feel about your
content - speak from the heart
We’re not talking rampant motivational
speaker style (unless you are a rampant
motivational speaker), just that you connect
with your audience on an emotional and
intellectual level. It’s delivering your
message with a sense of energy and
honesty, and genuinely wanting to
contribute to others.
Even if you’ve been handed down a
presentation you’ve had no part in putting
together, look for how the content can help
your audience and tap into your feelings of
wanting to add value.
After all, if you’re not enthusiastic about
what you’re saying, why should anyone else
Ok. We’re done with this tip. Everybody
shout “I am a presentation superstar!” and
high five the person next to you.
Have a clear call to
Your call to action is the purpose of your
presentation, it’s where it’s all been leading
to. Whether you’re trying to inform,
entertain, or sell, an effective presentation
needs a call to action that clearly states what
you want the audience to do next.
What do you want your audience to do? Sign
the contract? Buy the product? Agree to the
next meeting? Provide feedback? Remember
and apply new skills and knowledge? That’s
your call to action.
Whatever your desired outcome may be, be
sure to clearly state what the next steps are
during your conclusion. Finish strong and on
Think and feel differently to
What does presenting mean to you?
Something you’ve got to give, or get to give?
A means to sell products and services and
earn commission, or a chance to sincerely
help clients succeed? A way to dispense
information and instructions to your
workforce, or an opportunity to inspire
people to work together to overcome a new
The way you view presentations and your
audience affects how you feel. And how you
feel ultimately affects how you treat both
the presentation and your audience. You
may not even be fully aware of how you’re
coming across, but your audience will be.
Here’s an important point. Most people
don’t like to present and they don’t know
how to prepare. By changing how you think
and feel about presentations you’ll naturally
start to do the things that will help you
stand out for all the right reasons.
For PDF copies, or to find out how I can help you
create compelling presentations, send an email to:
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Photos from iStockPhoto.com/Frankenstein image by Rick Baker 2005