How you choose to organize your presentation directly affects its delivery. For you, a well-organized presentation will be easier to deliver. And for your audience, a well-organized presentation is easier to follow, easier to listen to and easier to understand. And that's all because good organization helps with the flow of ideas for a listening audience. Our choice of organizing techniques is potentially limitless. But five methods are used the most. These are:
- Mind maps. Pictures that are uniquely linked together to tell a graphic story are most people's idea of a mind map. And that's essentially right. Pictures carry more ideas, meaning and nuance than words when you are under stress during a presentation. With a picture-based mind map your presentation structure is organized with a linked network of pictures and idea flows. A logical flow of ideas can be shown. Causes and effects can be illustrated. Or, perhaps, you can depict stories and vignettes that relate to your main points.
- Prompt cards. A set of small cards (postcard sized) can support all your main presentation points. Their sequential order provides the flow to your presentation. Points can be written or typed in large type - probably using one point for each card. Their order is important. So you don't have a disaster should they be dropped it's a good idea to tie them together.
- Slides and overheads. Undoubtedly the organizing technique of choice for the harried executive. But ensure your reliance on the PowerPoint slide deck is only an organizing dependency; using the screen view you can be prompted at each step of your PowerPoint presentation. But take care of the basics. Don't be tempted to use too many slides. And don't be persuaded into reading out your slides - either from the main or the view screen. Should you fall into the trap, then ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is a fitting description of the experience.
- Outlines. A one or two page outline of your presentation should include each of your main points. You should also include your sub-points, cue points, places for audience interaction, stories and anecdotes. Readily accessible and easily read, the presentation outline is a serious choice for a well-rehearsed presenter.
- Large words. You should not forget the written speech or presentation. Many serious presenters use scripts. And they are very successful. The script technique involves typing your entire presentation word by word. Each sentence should start on a new line. Your choice of typeface and font should be readable at a distance when using a lectern.
When you organize your presentation you present more efficiently. Your delivery will be better. Your pacing and timing will be well-tuned. And, best of all, your audience will appreciate your investment with a better response to your spoken words. It's worth the effort.
Andrew Ivey is the principal presentation skills trainer at Time to Market the UK-based effective presentation training resource. Time to Market provides speakers with presentation skills and public speaking training in single day and half day courses. Their public speaking newsletter, provides more ideas and techniques for effective presenting.