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Presentation Skills - Organization is Key Part III

Jul 29, 2008
In Part III we discussed the importance of making sure that you tell your audience what your solution or recommendation is immediately after announcing the problem or opportunity at hand. Audiences absolutely need to know where you're going from the beginning in order to put into proper perspective the evidence you unfold.

When presenting the evidence, you must keep in mind that it will only hold your audience's attention if they feel there is something in it for them.

Support with Evidence

There are four basic different types of evidence: Personal, Statistics, Example, and Analogy. Consider your audience to help you to decide which type of evidence to choose.


Person evidence involves you, first hand. Perhaps you were there or you saw something happen. This is probably the most interesting and powerful form of evidence. It also gives you extra credibility with your audience.

In a presentation, few forms of evidence are more captivating than someone talking about what happened to them personally. If a safety expert comes on and speaks about the statistics of airline safety, that's interesting; but imagine talking to an actual plane crash survivor. Which holds more interest?

The same goes for someone talking about a disease. Would you rather hear about statistics or would you rather talk to someone who has been personally affected by a disease or has overcome a serious illness?


Using statistical evidence or numerical facts arranged for analysis and interpretation are great for technical people and financial people. They can also simplify large quantities of information for people that aren't technically oriented.

Statistics may also point out some real surprises or interesting findings that get the audience's attention. It is generally considered to be the most effective type of evidence in the business world. However, don't fall in the trap of presenting too many statistics or numbers at once. You will serve to lose and confuse the audience. You may also jeopardize your own believability, if you yourself don't fully understand the statistics being presented.

And don't think that numbers alone are ever going to convince anybody. If you want people to even listen to your numbers, you need to wrap them in something more interesting, such as the story behind the numbers. You at least have to humanize them. A million of anything is not easy for humans to picture or comprehend. A billion is almost impossible. But if you stood a billion barrels of oil side by side, they would circle the earth almost 16 times. That's a lot of oil!

Remember to keep it simple, be clear, and be concise so we can all relish in the wisdom of your easy to understand message.


Throughout this set of lessons we have shared stories from our presentation experiences to show what works and what doesn't. By giving people examples it's easier for them to grasp and think, "Yes, this could work here too." People have more openness to attempt something if they know it has worked before.

If you use an example from a similar industry or a different department in your company, and the example seems "close to home", it makes it so much easier to sell your idea. Try hard to make your example parallel as tightly to your own solution or recommendation as possible. It could make your idea a "slam dunk".


Alluding to how your new idea is similar to an idea that everybody knows can serve to paint the big picture of understanding. It also makes a case for creating great visuals to mirror your thoughts. The "tip-of-the-iceberg" analogy is commonly used in business to warn against an impending larger doom that lurks just below the surface.

Most people learn by taking new information they're confronted with and relating it to something similar that they already know. Metaphors (words) and analogies (actions) are the building blocks of all learning.
The right analogy can make a lasting impression with listeners and the image of that iceberg or "not seeing the forest for the trees" will hopefully be something that is burned into the hard drive of your audience.

For some great examples of helping people learn new things by relating them to old things they know, check out Anne Miller's metaphorminute.com.
About the Author
J. Douglas Jefferys is a principal at PublicSpeakingSkills.com, an international consulting firm specializing in training businesses of all sizes to communicate for maximum efficiency. The firm spreads its unique knowledge through on-site classes, public seminars, and high-impact videos, and can be reached through the Internet or at 888-663-7711.
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