It isn’t that difficult to find the right structure for a lecture or a presentation. Nevertheless I often experience basic faults during presentations. For example a bad introduction, to forget the agenda or an inadequate conclusion. During presentations some little but crucial mistakes happen, which disturb the overall impression or maybe devalue the whole presentation. Within this article I therefore want to give you a checklist which you may use to prepare your own presentations. This checklist should ensure the right structure and mentions the most important topics on which you have to pay attention during the preparation and execution of your presentation.
A presentation always contains three main parts. An introduction, a body and a conclusion. The time should be shared between these three parts as following:
- Introduction: 20%
- Body: 70%
- Conclusion: 10%
Furthermore it is very important that you are aware of the goals of this three presentation parts. You should align the three parts according to the following goals:
- Introduction: Say what you are going to say
- Body: Say it
- Conclusion: Say what you have just said
A good introduction causes interest and confidence on audience side. I think you know why it is important to create interest but what do I mean with create “confidence“?
Let’s start with the first point. You should gain the attention of the audience. After your introduction they must be curious and look for the content of your presentation. To do so you have two main opportunities. At first the topic of your presentation should be
First, you should phrase your presentations topic interesting. The right title is very often the most important participation or exclusion due for your presentation. A bad title leads to empty chair. Furthermore, during the introduction, you should give a motivation due to the audience to follow your presentation eagerly and actively. A corresponding starting point should be offered. This can be for example a recent press article that has attracted attention and thematically fits your presentation topic. You can also take personal or emotional objectives of participants as a starting point. Even a skilfully used provocative statement can be purposeful. But this will cause strong emotional reactions in most cases and should be used very carefully and possibly weakened again in an additional sentence. Till now I only started once with a provocative, but with success because I had gained the full attention of all participants. During the introduction you should also call the goals of your presentation. This can usually be combined well with the lead-in.
Let’s now go to the second part: create confidence. It is a typical human behaviour to distrust and fear unknown situations. Your audience will feel much more comfortable when everyone knows the situation they are getting into. This confident feeling can be relatively easy be created by answering the most important questions of the participants at the beginning of your presentation. These questions are: Who are you? What will you present? How much time will you need for your topics? What if I someone has question during your presentation? To answer these, you should introduce yourself at the beginning of the presentation. You should also describe your skills. But you should only tell the skills that make you an expert on the content of this presentation. In addition, you should specify the topic of the presentation by indicating an agenda. If the presentation is divided into several sections, you should also show the agenda for example by using a PowerPoint slide or a flip chart. Furthermore, the time frame of the topics has to be shown. If the presentation is divided into only one or two parts it needs no separate agenda. In this case it would be sufficient to say something like: “In the next 45 minutes I’ll show you the sales figures for the previous fiscal year.” Finally, it is advisable to tell the audience how you will deal with questions. Say whether questions are always allowed and encouraged, or whether you will have time for questions at the end of the presentation or each topics.
Within this article I don’t want to explain details of the main part of a presentation. How to structure the main parts depends very much on the particular topic, purpose and participants of the presentation and requires appropriate strategies. But there are general objectives you should always follow. You should go into detail and explain all main points you have mentioned during the introduction.
It is important that you align the presentation to the participants. You should show the audience what kind of advantages and benefits they can achieve. You should use formulations like: “What this means for you …“.
In the final part of the presentation you should give a brief summary of the benefits. This summary should therefore not be content-oriented but benefit-oriented. The summery is content-oriented if you simply repeat the topics of your presentation. Which means you will show the starting agenda again. Although this procedure already achieved a small benefit since all subjects again collectively be recalled, but the audience will really remember your presentation when you perform the summary from the perspective of the participants and give their benefits. As indicated in the description of the main part, you’ll see some advantages for the audience during the presentation. You should closely observe and deduce from the feedback which benefits have been recognized and accepted by the audience. In the final conclusion, you should then summarize the accepted value and call benefits. In addition, you should call to action. It is not enough that the participants know the advantages and benefits, you should explicitly call for execution of some actions.
The following checklist contains the topics shown in this article. You may use this checklist to create the structure for your presentations.
- Time: 20%
- Say what you are going to say
- Welcoming your audience
- Introduce yourself and your competences
- Motivate the audience
- Structure and time
- Instructions about questions
- Time: 70%
- Say it
- Present details to your main topics
- Show the specific benefits (“That means for you…“)
- Time: 10%
- Say what you have just said
- Summary of the accepted benefit
- Invocation for actions
- Thanking your audience
A good presentation structure is the backbone for a successful presentation. The checklist shown in this article contains the most important points which you should note for the structure of you presentations.