Presentations Made Easy

It’s 4:40 pm, and you get an instant message from your boss advising she needs you to put together a twenty-minute presentation on the new process improvement initiatives for the Board tomorrow morning at ten o’clock. When you recover from the initial shock of the directive, it’s time to gather your thoughts – and your data – and get to work.

The good news is anyone can put together an interesting and even entertaining presentation in a relatively short amount of time by following this simple presentation structure. And, the key to any successful presentation is structure.

· Clarify the Big Idea

· Get the Content to Support the Big Idea

· Expect Questions and/or Contrary Opinions

· Turn Words into Graphics

· Close with a Call to Action or Set a Clear Direction for Moving Forward

Clarify the Big Idea

Notice I said “the” big idea. In a short presentation, you’ll only have time to present one primary point of view or big idea. The big idea needs to present your case, in as much of a positive light as possible. Don’t lie and don’t exaggerate. Let the data speak for itself. If possible, present the big idea in one complete sentence.

Get the Content to Support the Big Idea

In gathering content, you don’t have to start from scratch. There’s (probably) plenty of information available to support the big idea. You’ll just need to know where to look. The second option is to brainstorm, either alone or with a colleague or two. If you choose this course of action, pick people who are knowledgeable about process improvement initiatives.

Expect Questions and/or Contrary Opinions

Because process improvement involves change, you can expect some resistance. Even though you’ll get general agreement that change is a good thing, nobody wants to give up maintaining the status quo without a fight. Resistance comes in several flavors: logical, emotional, and practical. You’ll deal with each one differently. Logical resistance is countered with real data – just the facts. Emotional pushback comes from long-held personal beliefs. This will require some TLC. Practical resistance will focus on things like taking too long or costing too much money. Make the case for why the change is worth the effort.

Turn Words into Graphics

Most folks don’t do well with numbers or spreadsheets. We live in a very visual age. If at all possible, use images or graphics to support the big idea. You won’t need many, by the way; in fact, the fewer the better. One or two great graphics or images will go a long way in getting the audience on your side of the argument. Apple is famous for using simple but powerful images and very little text in their marketing campaigns.

Close with a Call to Action or Set a Clear Direction for Moving Forward

People don’t want to be driven, but they do want to be led. Use your presentation to help the audience see what actions are being taken and why. Paint a picture of how things will be better because of the actions being taken, or because of the new direction. Be specific about how the audience can help make the new efforts successful.

The last-minute call for an important presentation doesn’t have put you into a tailspin. Having a simple presentation structure on hand is like keeping an emergency kit in the trunk of the car – just in case you need it.

Simplicity sells – especially in last minute presentations.

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