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Designing Our Presentation Part One

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Designing our presentation is a critical stage. We have identified our target audience for our key messages. We have selected the title to really engage our audience. We know the purpose of the exercise - inform, persuade, entertain, motivate to action.

 
Designing the conclusion is always a good place to start. The conclusion is really the summary of the key message we want to get across. The actual content delivery of the concluding message may vary from what we design at the beginning but it is still a very good discipline to force us to focus on the one central thing we want our audience to take away from our speech.
 
Having prioritized all of the various things we could say down to the one most important thing, we can now work backward and think about how we get our audience to agree with our conclusion.
 
Too many points and our audience will have trouble following the thread. of our argument. Too few points and the argument may not seem convincing for lack of depth and evidence.
 
We may group similar ideas under the one umbrella idea and may roll these out together. We have the key points selected that we want to raise and now we have to construct the argument to support the ideas. This would include some evidence based around statistics, data, expert opinion, authority references.
 
Usually three key points is easy for an audience to follow, but if the subject matter is complex or if you have been given a longer time to speak, then five may be needed. There are a number of structures for how you present the individual ideas. It could be a result/problem/ solution structure or you may switch the problem to the start and then outline the solution and the consequent result. The key is that the structure flows logically to make it as easy as possible to follow.
 
Having derived the key points we are going to make, we go back and design two closes. One is for the very end of the speech. This is to tie the whole presentation together. We might review what we said or we might focus on a particular key point.
 
Having designed that close, we now design a different one to follow the Q & A session. We need this second close, so that we can keep the whole proceedings on track. We have no control over what people will raise at the end, by way of questions and so it often happens that an audience member will take the discussion off topic. If we just allow the event to finish at that point, we have lost control of the messaging. We need to wrap it up in a way such that the audience have our key point ringing in their ears, as they leave the venue.
 
Finally we design the opening. This is a tricky one because it is wrapped tightly together with our first impression with the audience. If we try a joke that is weak and falls flat, our initial impression is negative. If we start rambling, we lose the audience's attention. If we commence with something very boring, we are going to have trouble breaking through the noise that is humming away between the ears of our audience. We need to break into their attention and capture them for the receipt of our key message.
 
We should also be very well choreographed with how we get going. Do the microphone check before the audience arrives. Have the slides ready to go. If there is a change over between your presentation and someone preceding you, then don’t start anything until the logistics are completed. The start of the talk begins at the start and not with any discussion about what you are doing with your laptop to get it ready. Make the first sentence powerful and don’t let anything else get in the way.
 
In Part Two of Designing Our Presentation, we will look at great ways to open the talk and some key elements of slide design.
 

 

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