How to structure a presentation
Today on PowerPoint Training Online, I would like to talk about how you should structure a presentation. This is a problem among many presentations around the world. Presenters are too worried about giving value for money that they forget to get their core message across. And therefore, people created the phrase ‘Death by PowerPoint’.
I might be a little biased but I really do hate that expression.
That brings us on to this article. Why are we talking about this today? Like everything else we do. We want to be able to help presenters create the best presentation that they can. Not just for their audience but for the presenter too. It is important that people walk away from a presentation understanding the key message that the presenter wanted them to get. If they don’t then nobody is a winner.
But how do you create a winning presentation. Structure and preparation. I suppose it is very much like life in that regards. Structure plays an important role in everything that happens around the world. How do you think the military would respond to threats if they did not have such a clean and organised structure? Businesses would fall apart from within without structure. Buildings would collapse without sufficient structure.
You can see why it is so important to structure something but why is it important to structure a slide deck.
To maximise the learning or message for the audience.
That is always going to be the number one goal of any presentation, to share a message.
Lets move on, to see how to structure a presentation.
How should you structure a presentation?
A beginning, a middle and an end
Like every good piece of writing you need to make sure you have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning is where you must captivate the audience. You will introduce your message just enough to want them screaming for more. Never give too much away during the beginning of the presentation, that is what the middle is for. When you have a beginning, a middle and an end you know you can structure a presentation without much going wrong with the structure itself.
The beginning is when you introduce yourself and your topic.
For myself, the beginning usually consists of two slides. The title slide and then the objectives slide. The title slide will tell people why it is that they are here. Try to stay away from catchy names and wording. You want to make sure that your audience knows why they are sitting in that seat looking at you. Next you have the objectives slide. You could call it the aims for this session slide. On this slide you are going to tell your audience what it is that you are going to go through with them today. You are only giving them an idea of how you will get the message to them, nothing more. At this point you don’t want to be taking questions. It is this slide that will set the tone for the rest of the presentation. Use it wisely. Like a table of contents.
The middle of any presentation is going to be the most important part. This is where the bulk of your content and you time is going to be spent. Yes, each section has its own importance in different areas. But if you do not have a middle, you’ve got no presentation.
In previous articles such as ‘7 reasons why you should be using video in your presentation’ and ‘Why you should be using animations and transitions’ are all based around the middle of the presentation. They discuss the importance of the middle and why you should be using these features. It is all of this that will make your audience understand your message.
The beginning of the presentation is where you tell the audience what it is that you are going to tell them, the middle of the presentation is where you tell them exactly what you want them to know and in a lot more detail. You are going to use images, words and video to help get your message across.
The end is where you recap everything. You go through with your audience what it is that you went today. This is the time for any questions that your audience may have. Yes, it is not part of the slide deck but it is part of the presentation.
This time is great for people to ask you anything they may not have understood about your presentation. So always be prepared, this is when your audience can discover if you are a fake or you really know your stuff.
Keep it simple and direct
This is not about structure but it is very important if you want to structure a presentation in a manner which helps people to learn.
Your presentation has been split into three parts. The beginning, the middle and the end. Now you must fill each of those sections with content. You want to make sure you are keeping it as simple as possible. You want people to pay attention and if they cannot understand what it is you are talking about then they will never pay attention to you.
Make it a story. People love stories it will keep them engaged. Making sure you give clear examples and visual aids that help that help to back up your points.
Use the right fonts and size. We always suggest using images and graphics as often as you can, but if you find you must use text. Then use one that your audience can comprehend and see. A fancy handwritten font will look nice but may be difficult to see.
Tell them, tell them, tell them
Some sage advice from a man who knew a lot about public speaking. Aristotle.
Very similar to the beginning, middle and end. You first want to tell your audience what it is that you are going to tell them. You are going to the give you’re the audience direction. You are going to tell them which way you are going to go with the talk and what are the most important parts to listen out for.
You have told them what you are going to tell them, now tell them but in more detail. Once you have told them in more detail, you want to recap. So, you are going to tell them again. This allows people to remember key moments throughout the presentation.
Use the magic number – Three
There is always a magic number, no matter what it is that you are doing. And for a presentation that magic number is three. You should never have any more than 3 key points in a presentation.
It has been proven that the human mind can only remember a few points at a time. It was thought to be around 7 but further research has proven that it may in fact be less. About 3-4 points to be remembered at any one time.
It is not your audiences job to know this. It is yours. You have design a talk around how people will maximise the information. So, keep it to three.
No more than one key message. But do not go beyond three when it comes to explaining your point. Use three points to get your message across. Never use more than three points per slide.
You want to make sure that people are going to walk away with the knowledge you wanted to give them.
Structure is all about planning. If you fail to plan, then you can plan to fail. Before you write any presentation always take a few moments to plan what it is you want the audience to get from your presentation. Once you know that plan how you are going to get that message across. Do some research and then put it all together.
Do this and you will be onto a winning formula that will work each and every time you deliver a presentation.
Thank you for reading this article. We hope you learned something from how to structure a presentation.
See you soon