Career Woman

How to structure a winning presentation

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Think of the last good movie you watched. It likely had creative visuals, a compelling script, music, rhythm and heroic characters. All these elements came together in a neatly presented package that led you from one point to the next.

They weren’t just hobbled together at the last hurried minute! Care, thought and attention went into every last detail.

This kind of perfectly executed structure, whether it’s the latest Hollywood blockbuster or a presentation to your team, is crucial to engage your audience and influence them to act.

An influential presentation needs to have a solid structure that is easy to follow. It must have lots of signposts that lead your audience all the way through, on a journey.

That means that the structure of your content, the order of your ideas, must support you as you speak and help your audience understand the information you are telling them. 

3 steps to structure your presentation

Master communicator Nancy Duarte spent two years reading mythology, philosophy, and researching screenwriting and other story methodologies that have stood the test of time. In the course of her research, she uncovered a structure that some of the world’s greatest communicators had been using for years (including Aristotle).

It’s called ‘Persuasive Story Form’. This structure takes your audience back and forth between ‘what is’ (current state) and ‘what could be’ (the future world with your idea). You can use it for everything, from a movie script to your latest presentation.

Beginning: ACT I

Have an honest conversation about the reality of the situation

Give them a glimpse at the solution – with your idea.

Middle: ACT II

Create tension and contrast for your audience

Use a balance of emotional and analytical insights.

End: ACT III

Begin with your call to action, what you want your audience to do

Finish with an inspiring description of the world with your idea in place

Ensure they leave committed to taking action.

Structuring each and every presentation in this way is a sure-fire win.

Call on them to act

Most importantly, you must always remember to have a call to action at the end of your presentation. Once you have shown your audience the need for change and how it will benefit them, you then need to tell them how they can be part of the change.

This closing call-to-action slide is the last step in achieving your objective. Make sure your audience clearly understands what is needed from them to make this happen.

Do you need to show them a link to a website? Can they follow you on social media to find more information about you? Do you want them to share the results with clients, customers or stakeholders?

You can only claim that you have a ‘winning presentation’ if your presentation achieves what you wanted it to achieve. If your audience does what you want them to do; that they respond in the way you want them to respond. That is how you measure whether your presentation has been successful or not.

So spend time on the structure, take them on the journey, the highs and the lows before you tell them what you would like them to do next.

About Emma Bannister

Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of upcoming book ‘Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations.’ For help structuring your presentations, check out her VisualStory workshop, run in partnership with global leaders Duarte across Asia Pacific. http://www.presentationstudio.com/presentation-content-training

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