I’m asked frequently by clients and colleagues alike how I construct my presentations (see a typical slide to the right). Here’s my secret (I keep it simple and direct):

Step One: Who Is Your Audience & What Do You Want Them To Take Away

This is the most important step that most executives and speakers forget. The usual process is to pick a topic and brain-dump into Powerpoint until you hit the requisite 75 slides. You’re done!

Not so fast. You first need to begin by clearly stating:

Why you are speaking? What information are you trying to deliver? What is the outcome — what is the real reason you are speaking? Convince a group? Make money? Get clients? Get this down first — it impacts everything else you do.

Why does the audience care? Why are you an expert at this? Have you done it before? Successfully? Audiences need an immediate expectation that what they are going to hear (and learn) works. I usually tell a story that give them the assurance that I’ve been there/done that.

What do they really want? Build to your audience. Are they going to take a lot of handholding or are they on-board immediately? Keep your presentation flexible to accommodate both audiences. You can prepare while building the presentation or handle while speaking to them. I do both. They also want ‘Broadway’ – be funny, engaging, empathetic — feel their pain, but have fun.

Oh . . . and never build slide that look like this (no bullets) ➝ ➝ ➝ ➝

What are the main ‘packets’ of info they can grab and run with? What is the end result? What items can they take home and try? Develop action steps for them to use immediately after the presentation. This is key — most speakers just give info — you need to deliver action steps for success.

Step Two: Structure – Build The Framework

  • Intro – Set the stage, get them to agree with your premise immediately.
  • Energy – Get them active, wake them up. Yell “Good Morning” or get them to stretch.
  • Story – Qualify your position with a real-life situation. People LOVE stories.
  • Contents – Tell them what you are going to present. This is how adults learn.
  • Info Block #1– Structure ideas in blocks – Intro, Steps, Wrap-Up
  • Info Block #2– Intro, Steps, Wrap-Up
  • Info Block #3– Intro, Steps, Wrap-Up
  • Action Plan – Give them homework and get them to agree to do it.
  • Questions – Take 2-3 questions from the audience.
  • Connection – Get them to take the next step with you.

Step Three: Assertive Editing — Less Is More

Don’t kill them with slides. Build the presentation and then try to cut it in half. How?

  • Streamline – make some slides shorter, simplify some ideas.
  • Incorporate – put two slides together, merge ideas.
  • Retire – throw out non-essential slides, don’t trash them, just hide them (you might need them later).

Remember — for every slide there is talking. Talking takes up most of the presentation.

The worst thing you can do is to start running out of time and then flip through the remaining slides like a madman. It’s easier to buffer slides with speaking, not the other way around.

How do you structure/build your presentation to make it sing?