5 Simple techniques for to-the-point presentations

Friday, December 11, 2015

Walking for pleasure. Plants that grow over walls. Sharon from finance's presentation. What do they all have in common? That's right, rambling.

Now, we're all for walking and gardening. But incoherent speeches? Not on our watch. So this one's for you, Sharon.

Give one of these five simple presentation planning techniques a try next time.

1) Chronological

Information is relayed in a historical sequence, older events first and later ones last. This is a natural, familiar format and most useful for incorporating storytelling or presenting a linear plan.

In this massively successful TED talk, Bassam Tariq uses a chronological structure to illuminate the beauty and diversity of Muslim life.

He paints a picture of three successive periods in his life – his careers as a blogger, filmmaker and then butcher – that helps the appreciate these qualities in his community.

2) Narrative

This is similar to the chronological approach but with more emphasis on building a story. It should include characters, obstacles and a clear plot line, and can be effective for bringing ideas to life and introducing humour. 

As a young child, Tania Luna left her home in post-Chernobyl Ukraine to take asylum in the US. She describes her childhood in heartbreaking detail, using her personal story to show why it's so important to hold your childhood memories close.

3) Topical

Often you'll find that you have several key areas to cover within your topic, so it makes sense to work your way through them one-by-one. Keeping the format of these sub-topics similar (e.g. overview-example-learning) will help your audience take it in.

Sound consultant Julian Treasure ricochets through some of the ways sounds affect us – physiologically, psychologically, cognitively and behaviourally – tying four separate studies together around the common theme of sound's impact on human behaviour. 

4) Causal

A presentation about a hypothetical future, or a problem that needs addressing, could benefit from a cause and effect structure – a demonstration of how one scenario can lead to another.

These networks can be branched, with multiple causes leading to an effect, be interconnected to show complex causality or circular, i.e. 'a vicious cycle'. 

YouTube trends manager Kevin Allocca has made a career from watching YouTube videos and analysing what causes a video to go viral. He demonstrates how three factors – tastemaker involvement, creative participating communities and complete unexpectedness – create the viral legends we know and love.

5) Problem-solution

First the problem is presented, then the solution is explained. This could be for an issue you solved, or a problem you can solve for the audience.

Like the topical approach, each of these subsections should strengthen and build up the general argument of the presentation.

Inspiring architect Moshe Safdie witnessed firsthand the misery of people living in high-rise housing in the US, and used his experiences to develop new ways of living. 

Thirteen years later he travelled around Asia, seeing many of the same issues manifesting. Again and again, he reworks and reimagines his vision to improve the lives of people in urban areas and promote more open spaces.  

I hope this helps you find the perfect structure for delivering your ideas – and keep your presentations ramble-free. 

Which is your preferred way of delivering a presentation? Let me know in the comments below. 

Find more useful tips at changingminds.org.

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