Partners in Performance Blog

Presentation Structure: Have Your Presentations Wandered Off Track?


Presentation structure is fundamental for delivering effective presentations.  In our UPFRONT Persuasion workshops a key focus for our course content is how to effectively structure a persuasive presentation.  Our Presentation Planner which follows the UPFRONT structure can be used as a template for all presentations. Like an accordion, it can expand and contract depending on the length of your presentation.

One thing is true. All presentations must have a strong, well built structure like the foundation of a house. There is little point in adding beautiful finishes and window dressings to a house that will ultimately wobble or fall apart because the foundation wasn’t properly built.

I observed first-hand what happens when presentation structure is not as solid as needed. This past weekend was a ‘presentation showcase’ day for Pro Track Speakers Academy – a yearlong boot camp for emerging speakers at the  Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS). For the third year, I had the privilege of evaluating the speakers’ presentations along with my esteemed CAPS colleague Richard Peterson.

We covered the gamut in our presentation coaching and as always when delivering presentation feedback, we provided the positives first, followed by suggestions for improvements.

For the positives, which were abundant, there was a prevalent theme. Artful storytelling was woven throughout the fabric of the day. Each of the presenters incorporated story and more than a few were masterful storytellers. A couple of presenters were flawless and if I owned a speakers’ bureau, I would have hired them on the spot.

On the flip side, what also became quickly apparent, was that a few of the presenters were missing some basic elements in their structure. They certainly knew how to structure their stories, but without a clear framework for their overall presentation, I wasn’t clear on the purpose, or core message. Without a clear sense of focus and direction, I was left confused.

If presenters aren’t clear on the purpose of their presentation, their desired outcome and how they are going to get there, they will be all over the map.  If they don’t organize their message, it will remain unclear. And then it’s impossible for the audience to be clear.

So what’s the answer? Every presentation must have a structured opening, a structured body and a structured close. The old adage still holds true:

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them as you OPEN
  2. Tell them in the BODY of the presentation
  3. Tell them what you told them as you CLOSE

Stay tuned for our next post where I will provide some tips on key elements of structure to include in each of these segments.

What are your questions about structure? Write a comment below and I will incorporate it into my next few posts on structure.


This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on November 22, 2012 in Persuasion, Presentation Skills, Presentation Structure. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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