My client met with me stressed and flustered. She had the biggest presentation of her life coming up in four days. She had collected tons of research, compiled spreadsheets of financials, commissioned elaborate illustrations, and created dozens of PowerPoint slides. But, there we were just 96 hours before her big moment, and she had not organized any of it. It was just a massive collection of facts and figures with no sense of order…

What to do? Begin at the beginning. And this should be the beginning of any presentation you prepare for: Get everything down “PAT.”

1.      Clarify your Purpose. Are you setting out to persuade your audience or to simply provide information that will inform them?

2.      Identify your Audience. How much do they know about your subject? What’s their attitude towards it? Towards you?

3.      Find out what your Time allotment is. Having 15 minutes to speak means more work than having 30.

Once you’re clear on three elements, you can begin to organize your talk. Start by identifying your main points and then what you want—and have time—to say about each point. Arrange them in some kind of logical order: topical, sequential, problem-solution.

Now you can wield the most powerful tool for organizing your thoughts for any presentation—from a major talk before a large audience to a message you need to leave for someone on voice mail—the Outline Form.

Here are the elements of the Outline:

I. Introduction – sets the stage, engages your audience

A. Hook – Gets your audience’s attention right at the start.

Use a question, startling statement, story or anecdote, audience involvement, demonstration, prop or visual.

B. Reason to Listen – What’s in it for them?

    Why should they listen to you?  Tell them.

    II. Body – the meat of your talk, what you want to tell them

    A. Road Map“Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em.”

    Then “Tell ’em”:

    B. Main Point

    C. Main Point

    D. Main Point

    III. Conclusion – wraps it all up, a call to action if necessary

    A. Summary“Tell ’em what you told ’em.”

    B. Close – Convey a sense of closure

    Use a story, anecdote, quote, visual-anything that’s meaningful and memorable.

    Are you familiar with Dagwood from the comics and his famous tall sandwich? Dagwood’s sandwich has a top and bottom with some condiments for flavor and interest that hold the whole thing together, and then all the meat and goodies in the middle. That’s a great analogy to your presentation: your Introduction and Conclusion add flavor and interest and hold the talk together. The Body is where the meat—the bulk—of your talk is.

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