One Easy Way to Present Better: Get Organized!
by Gilda Bonanno
One of the easiest ways to be a better presenter is by organizing your content clearly and logically. It sounds so simple, yet many presenters don't organize their material; instead, they just throw everything at the audience, all jumbled together with no clear indication of how things relate to each other or to the overall message. Then the audience is stuck with the messy task of figuring it out.
As a presenter, your goal should be to make it easy for the audience to understand your content. Here are four ways for you to create a presentation that is clear and organized:
Have an Overall Message
The message is the one thing that you want the audience to remember from your presentation. It's the point or the takeaway. Every statistic, story and slide that you use should relate to and support your message. If it doesn't, cut it out.
Sure, you can have extra material in your notes or in handouts, but don't clutter your presentation with it; extraneous material distracts from your message. And if you're not clear what your message is, you're not ready to present
Use an Introduction, Body and Conclusion
You may remember this outline form from writing essays in English class. It's an easy and effective way to ensure that your presentation has a beginning, middle and end. This outline is also known as "tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them."
In the introduction, capture the audience's attention, introduce your overall message and remind them how long you're going to speak. In the body or main part of your presentation, include your supporting points – examples, data, etc. In the conclusion, summarize your points, give one final reminder of your message and explain any expected follow-up actions from you or the audience.
Have an Overall Organizing Principle
The overall organizing principle is the link which ties all your points together. For example, you might present a specific number of points: three goals the team has achieved, four major project risks or three reasons you outperform your competitors. Or, you could present a timeline of events, debunk myths about your topic or present a series of dos and don'ts. It helps you focus and sets the audience's expectations for what comes next.
And sometimes, you can even include the organizing principle in the title of your presentation. For example, the title of my upcoming presentation at the National Speakers Association annual convention is "Improv Comedy Rules! Applying the Five Rules of Improv Comedy to Make Your Presentations More Powerful and Engaging."
Be the GPS and Roadsigns
When you're driving someplace unfamiliar, how do you know how far you've come or if you're going in the right direction? The road signs and your GPS (Global Positioning System) tell you how far you've traveled and how many more miles or kilometers you have to go before you reach the end of your journey.
When you're presenting, you have to be the GPS and the road signs for your audience, especially at the intersections and transitions between points where they can get lost. One sentence is all it takes to get the audience safely from one point or section of your presentation to the next. For example, you might say, "The fourth and final major project risk is…" or "Now that I've summarized the history of the company from our founding to the initial public offering in 2003, let's look at what has happened since 2003."
Following these four tips will help you create a presentation that is clear and organized. Your audience will be grateful for the clarity - and a grateful audience is more likely to understand and remember your message. If you do nothing differently other than organize your presentation, you will still be a better presenter!
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.
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