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Presentation Skills - Three Points and Your Out!

Jul 30, 2008
Organizing Your Presentation

Before organizing your presentation keep reminding yourself that Less is More. Also consider that most presentations have far too many concepts, and the concepts far too many details..

You should be able to put the gist of your presentation into one sentence or "headline". What would the headline of your speech be? Think about it. Start by writing a few full sentences to describe your overall theme. Edit out the superfluous adjectives, and then see if you can combine the sentences all into one. Then make that sentence a phrase. If you can't put all that into one headline you may have to simplify your idea.

Most presentations end up having too much content, although ironically presenters always fear not having enough to say.

It's also probable that you're audience has never heard your idea before. Though old news to you, its very likely something new to your audience. If you're on a traveling road show giving the speech over and over again, no matter where you go on the whistle-stop tour, it's always their first time. Don't forget that.

The Kitchen Sink

Most presenters end up using the "kitchen sink" approach and tell their audiences all they can, about everything they can, in the short amount of time allocated to them. Therefore it becomes a race to spew out as much information as possible as quickly as possible, essentially a self-serving data dump. How disheartening for the audience.

Your presentation is about your audience, not about your finishing everything you want to say as quickly as possible. And its certainly not about your demonstrating the breadth and depth of your knowledge, even if the CEO is in the back of the room. Although we'd like to believe it, nobody can recall everything that you say anyway.

So choose to make your headline important, relevant to your audience, and to the point. Once they have the headline, they have a context into which to put your supporting evidence. But if they're still trying to figure out what your main point is while you're trying to offer them proof, the impact of your evidence will be highly diluted.

And speaking of points: Keep it to three. Humans have an amazing ability to remember things that come in three, and forget things more complicated. The rule of three is a principle in writing that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.

No matter what your topic, either break your supporting data apart or put them together to form three main components. Repeating those three components often will lead to not only greater comprehension, but much greater retention, too.

So an argument that is broken down into three concepts, each supported by three solid sources of evidence, becomes an argument that your audience will find very easy to buy into, even it they don't see the simplicity of the symmetry.

Remember FDR's advice: "Be sincere, be brief, be seated."
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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