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Prepare Any Presentation in Ten Minutes
By Tony Jeary   Printer Friendly Version

You have probably seen the results of the study on the top fears of Americans that lists the fear of speaking in public higher on the list even than death itself. Why is that?

We believe there are several reasons. Over the years we have coached people throughout the world to be their best in front of an audience and to get people to take action when they talk. The number one challenge we have discovered links back to the lack of preparation due to pain avoidance or plain old procrastination. In response, we created a way to help our clients streamline the preparation of any presentation whether it be long or short -- scheduled weeks into the future or due in an hour.

The solution is a simple process that we have trademarked call the 3-D Outline™. This is not a traditional outline of key points - it is much more than that, yet it takes only a few minutes to learn. Without fail, it is the single most popular element of our workshops. If you will invest a few minutes of your time absorbing the following paragraphs, you will learn a skill that will cut the preparation time of your next presentation in half, and significantly reduce pre-presentation anxiety.

We call this outline 3-D because it is, theoretically, three-dimensional. Traditional presentation outlines are simply one-dimensional. They describe the "what" usually in a list of points and, perhaps, sub-points. Our outline process takes on added dimension with the addition of:
  • "why" each point is included
  • "how" each point will be made (lecture, facilitate, show a prop, etc.)

As you will see, this is the beauty of the 3-D Outline™. With so much information captured on one or two pages, the presentation can be designed, revised and delivered from this single document - even with multiple presenters.

In addition to saving lots of time, there are other benefits to the 3-D Outline™ process:

  • It is an exercise in "mental rehearsal"
  • It assures you that all your points can be covered in the time allowed
  • It "forces" you to link the points of your presentation to the core objectives
  • It helps you apply appropriate media to the various points
  • It is an excellent tool to help manage the presentation as it is in progress

The Process
An important point as you begin: Keep in mind that much is gained by simply getting your ideas down on paper. The function of the 3-D Outline™ process is that it is never carved in stone. Get your ideas down and rearrange them later if necessary.

All you need is a piece of paper, a napkin, flipchart or computer - it doesn't matter. We were delighted at the resourcefulness of one client in Japan who dutifully created a 3-D Outline™ for a $250,000 project on the back of an airline ticket jacket. It was beautiful - a bit of a challenge for the folks in our Dallas office to decipher - but it did the trick. We fully understood our assignment and the client could "see" what he wanted us to produce.

With whatever writing medium you choose, draw four columns like this:
Click on graphic for printable version:

NOTE: this 3-D Outline™ includes column 'Who' for multiple presenters and 'Where' for multiple locations.

Before you start filling in the 3-D Outline™, identify the objectives of the presentation.

  • WHAT will be the actual content of the presentation?
  • HOW will the information be presented and HOW long will the presentation last?
  • WHY will audience members wish to act when they leave the presentation?

The elements of the presentation that you outline need to somehow support these stated objectives. Additionally, write down the number of minutes that you have available for the presentation. Each element or point will be assigned an appropriate number of minutes, thus "spending" minutes from the total until, as grandpa said, "there ain't no more."

Now, most presentations have two things in common. They almost always have an Opening and we hope they all have some sort of Closing. As we talk about in Inspire Any Audience (TradeLife, 1997), these are possibly the most important parts of any presentation. How you use the Opening to alleviate audience tension, set up the topic and agenda, get involvement, etc. is the audience's first impression of you and this presentation. Similarly, the Closing is the last, and possibly the most memorable moment of the presentation. Be sure to allow plenty of time for each of these, probably more for the Opening. Remember to allow for any introductions or housekeeping issues that need to be addressed. A good rule of thumb is to use 10-15% of your time for the Opening and 5-10% for the Closing.

One more word on the Closing: Keep it short, sweet and as emotional as possible. Our advice to our clients is to handle Q&A and summary before the Closing to maximize the emotional impact of the Closing. In fact, it is usually ideal to summarize briefly between the key points in the body of your presentation to help your audience remember important information and to avoid allowing an off-the-wall question to derail your presentation at the crucial, emotional close.

Now that you have mapped out your Opening and Closing, and assigned the time for each, subtract their combined time from the total and that will be the number of minutes you have for the body of the presentation. Remember, stone tablets were not in the recommended media listed earlier, so if you see that you don't have enough time -- or too much - CHANGE IT! You have the power.

Work the same process for each key area of your message. Decide on a way to sequence your material. Common ways to arrange data are chronological, current to vision/pain to pleasure, advantages and disadvantages, and so on.

Be honest with yourself in the "Why" column. Many times we will try to include a point, story or activity just because we like it, but when we get right down to it, it just doesn't fit the objectives we have to meet. Keep your objectives front and center to be sure that everything you say or do in your presentation has a good reason to be included.

Use the "How" column to show you when handouts should be distributed, what PowerPoint® overheads should be shown, when a group discussion is needed or when to tell a certain story or show a particular video clip.

That's it! The 3-D Outline™ sounds almost too simple to be effective. We have found, however, that no matter how good you are at preparing or delivering presentations right now, you will improve by using the 3-D Outline™. If, on the other hand, you are like the majority of people, and feel somewhat inadequate in front of an audience, you have just uncovered a tool that can free you from endless hours of anxiety-ridden preparation and set you on a course toward a smooth-flowing, virtually painless presentation.

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