Effective Presentation Techniques: A Clear and Effective Structure

presentation techniquesSo far in this short series of blogs about effective presentation techniques we’ve looked at; what the research says, skilful delivery and knowledge of the audience.

The third characteristic my research has identified is a clear and effective structure. Why? Structure is seen as critical for a number of reasons:

Presentation Techniques: The Map

Firstly it is about appealing to the audience’s need to understand, and easily follow, the presenter’s argument or proposition. The analogy used by a number of authors, interviewees and training programmes is that of a journey. The idea here is that structure is used to enable the presenter and, crucially, the audience to have clarity about the start point, mid-point and destination of the presentation. The structure, then, is the map (and how many times have you listened in confusion to a presentation and thought ‘I really wish I knew where s/he was going with this’?!)

Presentation Techniques: Persuasion

A number of authors propose that the importance of the structure of the presentation lies with using structure models designed to persuade the audience or to sell to them. The classic sales model of an opening, a problem or need statement, a solution and a call to action would summarise the thinking of many of the experts included in the research. Structure here is used primarily to achieve the objective of the presentation e.g. the sale or agreement.

Presentation Techniques: Attention! (and the rule of 3)

A third view on structure is centred on the need to capture and retain the audience’s attention and interest. A common piece of advice is to use a script structure which starts ‘with a bang’ or to use a story telling structure. A number of authors, interviewees and online respondents make mention of what is sometime called the ‘rule of three’.  The principle here is that ideas or concepts presented in threes are more memorable, interesting and enjoyable. This principle is frequently supported by reference to the U.S. Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the French motto: liberty, equality, and fraternity and various well known quotes; from Shakespeare’s ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ to rallying cries such as President Obama’s 2005 ‘Yes we can’.  Ian Favell, CEO at Accredited Training International, puts this succinctly as “I’d only add the ‘Three Point Rule’ – have only three main points and only summarise in three’s’. In my experience this is very wise advice

Presentation Techniques Summary

So, maybe a few questions maybe useful?

Have you reviewed the structure of your presentations recently? Do you think the structure you are using is acting as an effective map? Does your audience appear to know where you (and they) are going and how the presentation is progressing towards its destination? Is there, at the very least, a clear beginning, middle and end point?  Have you tried applying the ‘rule of three’?

In the next blog we’re going to look at the presentation technique of having a clear goal or objective. Hope to see you there


If you would like to know how I can help you, your team or your business use research-based tools and techniques to improve your presentations just drop me a line at joan@10mmt.com

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