If you were to analyse any great presentation, you will quickly realise they have an invisible ingredient to the audience. And the result has such an impact in a positive way.
The ingredient is structure. I call this, the skeleton.
Most presentations don’t have this. More often than not, people just stand up and speak with little discipline around what they say and how it’s delivered. The have the meat but they don’t have the bones.
Great presentations adhere to the skeleton rule. Their content is supported by a frame, a strong skeleton which holds it all together.
A simple example of this is where you have an opening followed by the main body which flows in a sequence that makes sense, not randomly delivered. Then a close where the presenter will often reconnect with or summarise the key point one more time before inspiring the audience to act.
That’s a skeleton in its most basic format. If it’s delivered well, the audience won’t even notice the skeleton.
The best presentations don’t just have the big bones like an opening, a few messages and a call to action. They have smaller more subtle bones in there as well.
Let me give you an example.
I was coaching someone recently who was preparing to deliver a technical presentation to a non-expert audience. The danger with having expertise is that we assume the audience will understand it just because we do. So many times I’ve witnessed presentations being delivered where the audience were lost.
To ensure this, we need invisible structure.
With that client we discussed the need to give very clear direction at certain times so that people would clearly understand at all times what the content being spoken about at that time, related to.
After the opening, we inserted a small bone of structure which was simply 3 / 4 lines of specific content which took about 20 seconds to
deliver. It was designed to ensure everyone in the audience clearly understood what was coming in the main part of the presentation and where the presenter would be at all times in the next 20 minutes. By inserting this, it meant they would be more likely to understand and process the content that was to follow.
After what was a five minute opening, that presentation we were working on It went something like,
So here are the two things that everything I’m going to speak about today relates to.
In the first section, each of the points relates to x.
And in the second section, we will be covering y.
As she spoke those words, the presenter was pointing to a PowerPoint slide we had built which had the look of a signpost. This consisted of the pole itself and the two arrows which had words explaining what x was about and y too. We also had the two arrows pointing to the right to signify it’s coming in their future.
That was among the most important pieces of communication to be delivered in that 30 minute presentation. It meant everyone was clear about where we were going. And if they got confused, they would know which section it was designed to educate them on…
Most speakers or presenters don’t do this. Often the audience has no idea where they are in the presentation or what point the specific thing being presented, relates to. As a consequence, we don’t educate them, we overwhelm them.
We have got to be very clear in our communication. The clearer and the simpler, the better.
The skeleton is the framework that your content and your delivery is built around and the best presentations have them but they are delivered so well, you don’t even notice.
Put some big bones and perhaps some small bones of structure into your presentations and it will support you in a great delivery.