What is the structure of an effective presentation? Well, not surprisingly, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is the call to adventure. The middle, of course, is the contrast – what is versus what could be. The end is a call to action. The three sections have to have a clear focus or the audience will tune you out. A focused presentation has a primary intention and no more than three or four main ideas to surround that primary intention. If you keep the presentation focused, people will know where you're going and follow you there.
You also have to keep it interesting. How do you do that? Photographs are interesting. Contrast is interesting. People are interesting. Stories are interesting. Case studies are interesting. What is not interesting? Cut sheets, technical specifications, units of measure that most people don't know the meaning of… kilowatts, kilowatt-hours, therms, and so forth.
If you throw in some drama, that helps, too. Don't be afraid to make it personal. In the book Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences (which I highly recommend), Nancy Duarte talks about how the PowerPoint presentation is the modern version of a campfire. She argues that, unfortunately, most people who use this “4,500-lumen campfire” are simply not adept storytellers.
Would you like to keep your audience huddled around your campfire rapt with attention? Keep your presentation concise, structured and visually engaging. Focus on attention-grabbing contrast. Tell a few stories with memorable punch lines. Do all that and you’ll have the audience in the palm of your hand… rather than just your slide advancer!
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