Have you listened to a presentation that seems to be going nowhere? Perhaps you have struggled to understand just what is important in all this mass of information? And I bet if you have, you have given up the task!

If only the speaker had understood the importance of getting the skeleton out of the cupboard.

Planning a presentation is important if we are to achieve the aim – but first understanding what the main aim truly is would be really beneficial. And sometimes that is not so obvious. Sometimes we are left with a sense of confusion about what we are supposed to do with all this information. So deciding what the purpose is, should be the main step in the organisation of any presentation. What is it that the listeners are supposed to take away with them; or to do.

Then we need to understand the three main components of any presentation – The start: the middle and the end! Or as we communication trainers put it, the opening, the body and the conclusion.

Once we know what we hope to achieve we need to gather the information, the quotations, the opinions and the facts which will support our argument or point of view and show our listeners that we know a thing or to about this subject. And we need to arrange it in a way that it leads from one point to another in sequence. No chopping or changing our ideas, or going back over something twice because we forgot some important statistics.

This should take the most time, because we are constructing the skeleton; the framework which we hope will lead our listeners to share to the same point of view as we do, and create a willingness to believe.

Once we have created the body of our presentation we need to look at the beginning and the end.

At the beginning of any presentation we have to make a connection with our listeners right from the start. This means engaging with them immediately. How to do that is the problem.

Rhetorical questions can be a great way to open – What do you think? Have you ever …. (See the opening sentence of this blog!) Our automatic response to a question is to consider our answer. And when your audience is thinking about your topic in the opening seconds you have immediate engagement.

So ask a question, tell a story, choose an appropriate quotation– all of these will get your audience’s attention and put them in the right frame of mind to listen when you outline your topic and your aim.

If getting the opening right is important, getting your conclusion right is even more so. Remember that vague feeling of disquiet when you got to the end of someone’s presentation without a clear idea of what you should do now? Don’t leave your audience in such uncertainty. Spell it out. This is what I want you to do now or some similar statement. But remember I don’t know what you want me to do with all this good information unless you tell me.

And what you want your audience to do is your aim – the reason you stood up to speak in the first place. And the conclusion is where you get to pitch this reason. So recap your main points briefly – and then create that powerful call to arms. It should leave your audience charged with energy and enthusiasm.

Three very simple steps; and yet they are the vital parts of the skeleton that every powerful speech has been built on. If you read any of the speeches that are supposed to have changed the world you will find that under all the wonderful language, under the speakers emotional connection, under everything are the three solid blocks of the opening; the body and the conclusion. The Skeleton in fact.

So when you next have a presentation, why not sit down to really plan it. Work out precisely what it is you want to achieve, and gather the material that will support that aim. Then start with the main body and plan the order in which you will create that sense of inevitability which leads to where you want to be.

Then decide how you will make that immediate connection with the audience while introducing your topic; and finally how will you ask for that commitment that will achieve just what you wanted.

Now you have the bones of the speech or presentation you can look at ways of delivery that will enhance it; but without the skeleton all the body language or vocal variety in the world will not make you successful.

Planning is the key. Planning and preparation – oh yes! And getting that skeleton out of the cupboard.

Michele @ Trischel

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