5 Quick Ways to Organize a Presentation

By Nick Morgan

Too many people structure their presentations by pulling together slides and then assembling them like a deck of cards, in what seems like an OK order. That usually means that no one except the presenter can divine where the speech is headed.

That’s a bad idea.

At the heart of a successful presentation is a clear structure. Which one should you use? The best structure for what you’re trying to do depends on the nature of your talk. Following are five possible situations in the organizational world for which you might be called upon to present; pick the one that best suits your actual situation.

1. You might be called upon to report progress. In that case, use the following structure:

1. Describe the issue or assignment, including why it’s important
2. Describe the critical outstanding problems
3. Prioritize them, and describe how they’re being addressed
4. Describe successes to date – positive progress made
5. Close with action steps

2. You might be called upon to recommend a strategy. For that situation, here’s a good structure:

1. Define the objective
2. Describe the current conditions
3. Describe the desired state
4. List the possible strategies, with pros and cons of each
5. Identify best one, describe next steps

3. You might be called upon to persuade your audience of the excellence of a particular product, service, or idea – a sales talk. Here’s how to organize that one:

1. Frame the need that the product, service, or idea addresses
2. Describe the need in more detail
3. Describe the ways in which your solution addresses the need
4. Describe the benefits of buying in to your solution
5. Get agreement on a next step

4. You might be called upon to choose among several alternatives. Here’s the best way to present:

1. Frame the situation
2. Describe the criteria for success and prioritize them
3. Describe alternatives
4. Compare to the criteria and eliminate alternatives that don’t meet criteria
5. Recommend best remaining alternative

5. You might be called upon to teach a procedure or a skill. In that case, proceed as follows:

1. Frame the skill in terms of its importance to the audience
2. Explain the skill or procedural steps involved
3. Get the audience to try some aspect of the skill or procedure
4. Review and summarize, including anything the audience did not try
5. Describe what the audience can do on its own to acquire the skill or procedure

About the Author:

Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and presentation skill coaches. In his blog he covers modern communications from a variety of angles, including the latest developments in communication research, the basic principles and rules of good communication, and the good and bad speakers of the day. For more information, visit www.publicwords.com

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