Sink the Agenda Slide

How would you like to go to a movie, let’s say, “Titanic,” and have the movie open with this screen (below).

Titanic Agenda 2

It would be a bit of a spoiler, wouldn’t it? Yet that’s the way most business presentations seem to begin, especially internal corporate presentations.

When I work with corporate executives on their presentations, they almost always insist they need an agenda slide to show their audience exactly what issues are going to be covered, in order to keep everyone’s attention. And  yet…James Cameron seemed to have no trouble keeping everyone’s attention in Titanic.

In a sense, the executives are right. In a poorly structured and written presentation, the agenda is necessary to help the audience make sense of what they are hearing, just as a really bad movie, (I’m looking at you, Tom Cruise)  could use an agenda slide to make sense of the story.

A great movie, on the other hand, never leaves you confused or lost. You know what’s happening. Even a mystery should be mysterious clearly. You may not know who the killer is, but at least you know where you are in the story.

That’s how a good presentation should be too.

The opener should grab their attention and prepare them for the message you are going to present to them.

The introduction should lay out the change you are going to lead the audience through. How they will benefit from this change should be unambiguously stated. The message they are to remember should be presented to them in a short, clear and memorable form.

The body should flow naturally from the message to the arguments, examples and stories that will explain and support it, with concrete examples, specific data and iron-clad logic.

The conclusion should return to that message, driving home its meaning, its relevance and its importance; planting that one crystal clear point deep in the minds of the audience.

If you do that, your audience will know where you are going. They will understand how each part of the presentation relates to the whole. They’ll know what to expect.

Your presentation will carry your audience towards your destination smoothly, powerfully, irresistibly, like the great ocean liner herself.

Just watch out for icebergs.

About the Author:

R.L. Howser  is a speaker, writer, university professor and journalist with more than 30 years of experience as a professional communicator. He teaches presentation and communications skills at Tokyo University of Science (Tokyo Rika Daigakku), Hosei University and the Kenichi Ohmae Graduate School of Business. Howser also was the 2010 Toastmasters Japan Champion of Public Speaking. For more from his blog, Presentation Dynamics, visit


Pin It on Pinterest