If you haven’t been professionally trained in giving great presentations, you can still give professional presentations. Like Russian nesting dolls, great presentations have parts that fit together...but only in the right order.

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For your next presentation, remember these indispensable parts.

Audience

Isn’t this how presentations often go? You get the assignment to present, so you fire up PowerPoint and get your points down, because isn’t the presentation really about you and your idea? Actually, no. Your presentation is all about the audience. Although understanding the audience is the starting place for creating a presentation, the audience is often overlooked.

But the point of the whole presentation is impacting the audience. If you ignore the audience in your preparations, you’ll forget a vital part. By understanding the audience, you can deliver a presentation that speaks to them so they care about what you care about.

Message

After you’ve understood the audience, you can craft the message. Have you ever attended a presentation and wondered, “What was the point?” and “How can I get that time back?” Mediocre presentations often suffer from an unclear, undeveloped, or inaccessible message. The presenter didn’t decide what he or she really wanted to say and how to say it. But it’s not the job of the audience to decipher the presenter’s message.

So take time to craft the Big Idea. According to presentation expert Nancy Duarte, the Big Idea is the combination of your Point of View plus the Stakes of what will or will not happen if the audience doesn't adopt your idea. When you work the Big Idea into your message, the audience will have no doubt what you want them to do and why you want them to do it.

Storytelling

Have you ever attended a presentation that just fizzled out? It was going, going, and all of a sudden, it was gone and you were like, “Oh, it’s over?” It had no end. Or maybe it had no beginning. Or no buildup. But presentations need the flow of a beginning, middle, and end so the audience feels like they’re going somewhere. This is the structure of a story.

In addition to structure, stories can also add substance. Author Dan Roam wrote, “When we tell a story in a presentation, three great things happen: We make complex concepts clear, we make ideas unforgettable, and we include everyone.” Stories can be powerful vehicles to move your idea forward.

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Design

Too often the design step gets out of order and the presenter prematurely begins designing slides before the other steps occur. But poorly designed slides hurt—not help—your idea. Slides are often used the wrong way.

For example, slides are not your:

  • Presenter notes: The purpose of slides is to help the audience accept your ideas. Slides are not there to help you remember to say everything. Your slides are not your teleprompter. Now, PowerPoint does have presenter note mode, which displays your notes for you without displaying them to your audience.
  • Soapbox: I’ve heard presenters speak like it’s their last presentation ever and they’re trying to get everything in. They go on and on, and this, and that, and everything is one long sentence connected by "and." But your slides are not your soapbox. Your slides should have a very narrow focus aimed at supporting your idea.
  • Art canvas: Your slides aren’t your shot at playing amateur artist. They should not include 18 colors and 12 fonts and include word art and stock photos and Google images just because you had a computer and were feeling creative. If you want to color, buy a box of Crayons. If you want to persuade, design a thoughtful presentation.

Delivery

The credibility of a grand idea can be lost with poor delivery. Insecure presenters tell the audience they don’t really believe in the message. Unprepared presenters tell the audience they don't care enough about the message to prepare well. And disconnected presenters tell the audience they didn’t take the time to understand them.

Your grand idea, hard work, and authority can be diminished by poor delivery, but that’s not fair to you, your idea, or your audience. So plan and prepare your delivery, thinking about tone, dress, body language, helps, and handouts.

Listen, powerful presentations are in you. By remembering these five indispensible parts, you can deliver powerful presentations that move the audience to embrace your idea.

Download the Presentation Checklist

About The Author
Chris is Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., which helps organizations get value from their utility bills through energy management software. A certified Gallup Strengths coach, Chris is working toward accreditation as a leadership coach by the International Coach Federation.
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