Simple Keys to Making a Great Presentation (Part 2)

SOFT SKILLS MATTER)Editor’s Note: See Part 1 HERE

Section III

Finally, here are 10 simple structures you can consider in the creation of your talk that will provide continuity, interest, and better retention of the information you are offering.

  1. Numerical
  2. Compare/contrast
  3. Argument/fallacy
  4. Case study
  5. Features/benefits
  6. Issues/actions
  7. How it happened (or is happening)
  8. Problem/solution
  9. Chronology
  10. Rhetorical questions

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  1. Rhetorical question.
    If you use the rhetorical question as your presentation structure you might begin your speech with a statement such as: Conventional wisdom says the size and power of the Chinese economy will eclipse the U.S. economy within 10 years, but is that really the case?[su_spacer]Having posed a rhetorical question, you know exactly what the rest of your speech must accomplish, as does your audience. Simply answer the question.[su_spacer]You might delve into that task by saying, “I suggest that the answer to that question is ‘no’ because China is on the cusp of social and economic unrest so pervasive it will make the Tiananmen Square protest look like a junior high school fire drill. Here’s why this situation is coming to a head and will inflict great damage on China’s economic growth.
  1. Chronology. I heard Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak give a chronological account of how he became interested in electronics as a young boy, studied engineering in college, and partnered with Steve Jobs to create and develop Apple Computer. It was fascinating. Chronologies are not a sophisticated way of telling a story, but they are a very easy way to tell one, and audience members have no trouble tracking a chronology’s progress. Besides, just as Wozniak’s story was interesting, so are other chronological tales….so this is a good way to draw your audience in to your presentation.
  2. Problem/solution. A member of Congress using this presentation structure might tell his/her audience the problem is a tax code that is far too complex and riddled with loopholes for special interests, and the solution is to abolish the current code in favour of a flat tax with no deductions. You will have to come up with one that is relevant to your audience so that, again, it will draw them in and engage them in your talk.
  3. How it happened. Example: How human life expectancy continues to expand in the United States even as tens of millions of citizens are uninsured and receive inadequate health care. Here are the reasons why…[su_spacer]Once more, the example you employ should resonate with the audience and relate to what you are offering to them as takeaways.
  1. Issues/actions. In this construct you first enumerate the issues or challenges being confronted (Our company is facing dwindling brand recognition, declining sales and shrinking profit margins), followed by the actions you are taking to rectify them (We are battling these trends with a new corporate development strategy that includes bigger marketing expenditures, a more rigorously trained sales team, and streamlined supply-chain management). Once more, the examples given must be relevant both to audience, as well as to whatever you are speaking about in this presentation.
  2. Features/benefits. This structure is commonly used in sales presentations. Basically, the presenter explains his/her product’s various features, then the important benefits the buyer will derive from those features. If you are offering services, the same holds true, you will need to explain why your version has special features and offerings that your competitors may not include. (For example, my soft skills workshops are all customized to meet the specific needs of my clients so I never deliver exactly the same workshop twice…they could be similar but will have features particularly designed to meet the required skill set as outlined by the client.)
  3. Case study. This is a presentation structure often used in sales presentations, but again can be well-developed for any talk. It is an excellent storytelling opportunity and a model that allows you to give a specific example of how another company solved the very same problem by using the services you are proffering.
  4. Argument/fallacy. Often the conventional wisdom people accept is founded on misleading, false information, or reasoning. The argument/fallacy approach to presentation explodes these misconceptions. Here’s an example: Social scientists have concluded that the longer people live, the more health-care resources they’ll consume. However, new research on end-of-life care shows that if you live to age 100 the last five years of life costs just one-third the medical costs of people who live to age 80. When using this device, just be sure your facts are up to date and correct.
  5. Compare/contrast. This is a popular sales presentation blueprint. People make decisions by comparing their options. This approach of compare/contrast is constantly used during political campaigns. For example: Compare my record with my opponent’s record. The contrast couldn’t be starker. A variation on the compare/contrast model was used for many years by Oracle Corp. founder and CEO Larry Ellison when he proclaimed in Fortune magazine, IBM was yesterday, Microsoft is today, Oracle is tomorrow. Once more, be sure what you are saying is factual and provable.
  6. Numerical. This is a favourite among bloggers and other media members, and has been used for this article. Other examples might be, “Three foods that eliminate belly fat”, or “The five best overseas options for a comfortable retirement”. This is the simplest presentation structure. Tick off the points you want to make one by one. It’s also great for audience members because they know at all times the degree of progress you’ve made and the approximate duration remaining.[/message][su_spacer]

Always remember that you can certainly combine a couple of these structures into a single presentation. For instance, you can marry the rhetorical structure with the numerical structure in this way: Conventional wisdom says the size and power of the Chinese economy will eclipse the U.S. economy within 10 years, but is that really the case? I contend the answer to that question is no because China is on the cusp of social and economic unrest so pervasive it will make the Tiananmen Square protest look like a junior high school fire drill. Here are three reasons why this prediction will come to pass and great damage will be inflicted on China’s economic growth.

Although in the above example you would be dealing with two presentation structures, they can be made to work seamlessly. They are still a simple blueprint for writing and presenting your text, and still optimal for audience absorption of your content.

These simple presentation structures will make the development of your next presentation far less onerous and in the end, much easier to present. Using these tips when creating a presentation allows you to effectively present your material because you have not overloaded yourself with a sprawling outline that has turned into a data dump that will bore, confuse, and punish your audience. Instead, it will become a clear, to the point, presentation of the key issues you wish your audience to take away, done in the allotted time frame, maybe with some time to spare…..remember…..”less is more”. So do not overwhelm your audience with too much information, just offer the facts, keep it simple, and describe the key concepts in an articulate, interesting, engaging and memorable manner. In this way, you will leave your audience thirsting for more, rather than shifting in their seats, anxious for your concluding statement.

I trust you now have some good ideas that you are anxious to try when you create your next presentation. Have fun!


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. A lot of good points here. In my presentations I emphasize balancing rhetoric with facts, creating a sense of urgency, and establishing the call-to-action. I do my best to center it around a heart-tugging story to help people better remember the presentation.

    • Great ideas, Chris…..people relate well to personal stories and it helps them to remember the elements you are providing for them. Offering a challenge or a “call to action” also is an engagement tactic and very beneficial. Obviously you make meaningful presentations which, I expect, result in good outcomes. Thanks again for sharing your expertise!

  2. Hi Jeanine,
    Glad you found the article beneficial. There are so many ways to create a session and I usually tailor it to suit my audience. Even the exercises I use will vary depending on the industry. It always important to find different ways to engage an audience and new and innovative ways to develop a presentation. Besides, same old same old can be boring to us, and if it is boring to us, you can bet it will bore the audience. I love the challenge of introducing new elements into a subject or coming at it from a new or different direction. Hope you just have fun!

  3. Thank you for your articles on this. You think about speaking and creating presentations different from my style which means the perspective you add is valuable to me. Thank you.