When Trolling for Business, Don’t Wing It
Of the three—substance, structure, style—I believe the most important is structure. Organizing information for maximum learning effectiveness is what every great presenter strives for. You want your listeners to say, “Hey, you know what, I get it. I now understand why this product or this company or this idea is superior.” You want them to learn. It’s, therefore, essential that you structure your information in a way that’s most conducive to learning.
Get started by outlining. Outlines do three very important things, all of which are essential to learning. First, they determine sequence: A comes before B, D follows C. Second, they illustrate priority: This point is really important, while that point isn’t so important; this is a supporting point of importance. Third, they show relationship.
Sequence, priority and relationship, taken as a whole, constitutes the structure of a presentation. It’s absolutely essential to learning and to a solid understanding.
Think of taxonomy—the practice of classifying plants and animals according to their presumed natural relationships. Similarly, great presentations all provide the intellectual framework to allow the listener to easily understand how the point that you’ve just made fits into the entire proposition that you’re presenting. Contrast that to the repetitive and endless series of bullet-points contained in so many PowerPoint presentations.
Equally important is the determination of the unifying theme. What do you want every visual, every paragraph and every point to support? Decide on the key theme that you want to drive home. Every slide or visual used should be tested against the following question: Does this support the proposition that I’m making to my audience? If it doesn’t, remove it or revise it. Every visual should support the unifying theme.
It’s a gross simplification to say, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them,” but it’s abused and forgotten, as much as anything in teaching and presenting. It’s rarely done and when it’s done, it’s rarely done well. The longer the presentation, the more important it’s for your listeners to understand where you’re taking them.