Effective Presentation Training for 2022

effective presentation training

What is a presentation? Fundamentally a presentation is a form of communication. A presentation can be adapted to various speaking situations such as talking to a group, addressing a meeting, and briefing your team during a weekly meeting.

Presentation can also be used as a broad term that encompasses speaking engagements such as a lawyer making a case in court, the best man at a wedding giving his speech, or a coach preparing her team for the big game.

Effective presentations are rarely off the cuff or winged. It happens, but it’s usually in a highly emotionally charged context, and if the presentation were examined out of the context you’d think it actually wasn’t so great. Great presentations are planned. Amazing presenters train and hone their craft.

Why can’t you just wing an effective presentation?

Effective presentations must be structurally sound so they can’t be developed on the spot. The audience can’t see the structure, but it’s there. Structure connects each piece of the presentation in a seamless way that creates a whole that is satisfying to the conscious and subconscious mind of the audience. Very few people, if any, can structure on the fly.

The structure of a great presentation is critical for communication effectiveness, as long as it isn’t overly obvious and rigid.

So why do great presenters seem like they’re just talking off the cuff?

The best presenters practice, practice, then practice some more. Once you’ve done enough presentations your practice may decrease, but you’ll always give your presentation structure the same amount of attention. It’s when you truly know your structure and main points that you can take control of a room and look natural.

In this article we’re going to take another look at what makes great presenters so good at their craft and what kind of presentation you can do to get your presentation skills on the same level.

Why is Presentation Structure so Important?

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Solid structure makes your presentation easy to tell and easy for the audience to follow.

If you think back to great presentations you’ve sat through you’ll probably remember leaving feeling inspired and energized. This isn’t because the speaker was the most knowledgeable or motivating individual to ever step up to a microphone. It’s because the presenter had a beautifully structured presentation. They crafted their message in a logical and simple way that allowed you to keep up and take away key messages at the right time.

Science backs up the importance of structure. Studies show that audiences retain structured information with 40% more accuracy than unstructured information. It makes sense when you think about how our brains work. We are always looking for patterns and organizing so we can make sense of our environment.

Proper structure not only helps your audience stay engaged but it helps you as the presenter. A good structure helps you remain calm, stay on topic, and avoid awkward silences.

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What Influences Your Presentation Structure?

Every great presentation has a natural flow. However, every presentation’s structure will be different due to a number of influencing factors, including:

  • Whether your presentation requires demonstrations.
  • The level of awareness of your audience.
  • How much interaction you want from the audience.
  • Time constraints you may be facing.
  • Where your presentation takes place.
  • Your ability to use visual assistance.

What is the Best Presentation Structure?

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There is no “best” presentation structure, but there are proven structures that have passed the test of time. It’s important to stick with what’s worked, especially when starting out. You must first master the rules before you can break them. The traditional structure of effective presentations should first be mastered before you deviate.

1. Opening Sequence

A well-structured opening establishes need, positions your topic to the need, and calls the audience to action.

An excellent opening paragraph is structured as an Opening Sequence that consists of three parts:

  • Gambit – this is where you creatively grab the attention of the audience, especially because they are often distracted at the start of your presentation. The Gambit grabs attention by establishing the need for your solution, topic, product, or idea.
  • USP – the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) positions your solution to the need you established in the Gambit. It describes what your idea does in the context of this specific presentation.
  • Point B – this is your call to action, what you are asking your audience to do at the end of your presentation.

Keep in mind that the main goal of the introduction is to grab the audience’s attention, prepare them for what’s coming, and connect with them.

2. Preview

The Preview shows you are in control — so your audience will also
feel in control.

The preview is short but important because it provides a crisp agenda and also lets the audience know how long the presentation will take. It shows that you are courteous and respect the busy schedules and responsibilities of your audience.

3. The Main Points of Your Presentation

Organize your main points into strong, sturdy Columns that make your story easy to follow and comprehend.

The main body of your presentation must meet the outline introduced in your agenda. Depending on the nature of your presentation, you’ll want to clearly segment the different topics you will discuss, and work your way through them one at a time. Everything should be organized in a logical way and each new topic should have a connecting transition or link from the last one.

  • Main points should be addressed one by one with supporting evidence and examples.
  • Before moving on to the next point provide a mini-summary.
  • Links should be clearly stated between ideas.
  • Make it clear when you’re moving on to the next point.
  • If your audience is taking notes you’ll need to slow down and give them time.

The best presentations are built on clarity. When planning your presentation write a list of main points you want to make and ask yourself “What am I telling the audience? What should they understand from this?” Everything in your presentation should have a purpose. If it’s not relevant, cut it. The more you hone your presentation skills the more you’ll see this pattern.

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4. Closing Sequence

Your conclusion is the culmination of your story and the pinnacle of
your persuasion.

One of the weakest points in a lot of presentations is the conclusion. It’s often underdeveloped, lacks purpose, or is non-existent. The conclusion is the climax of your presentation – the place where you elevate your audience to a point where they leave feeling like something important just happened.

Like the Opening Sequence, the Closing Sequence has three parts:

  • Bookend Gambit – briefly revisit the creative way you began the presentation.
  • Recap – summarize your main points in a clear, succinct manner.
  • Point B – End by restating your call to action. If you know the audience well you can be more direct, but if you are not as familiar with them you should use a softer sell Point B.

5. Post Conclusion

Be sure to anticipate in advance and prepare for any questions you may receive during the presentation and in the Q&A segment.

After you conclude your presentation thank the audience for their time and attention. If time allows you can invite them to ask questions.

Depending on the nature of your presentation a Q&A session can be a key part. Just like your presentation, you’ll need to prepare for possible questions. If you’ve given the presentation a few times you’ll be familiar with typical questions audience members may ask.

Specific Types of Presentation Structures

effective presentation training structures

We just covered the structure of a basic presentation, but not every presentation is basic. There are a wide variety of presentation types and structures to consider. Here are some more specific presentation types and a brief overview of their structure.

Demonstration Presentations

When you have something useful to show you’ll likely be doing a demonstration presentation. This typically is the case if you want to show how a product works. Steve Jobs often used these techniques in his demo presentations.

  • Explain why the product is valuable.
  • Describe why the product is necessary.
  • Explain what problems it can solve for the audience.
  • Demonstrate the product to support your points.

Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the best presentation styles and should be a part of any presentation skills toolkit, and the best presenters design their entire presentation around story. There are a lot of different story structures you can incorporate – a popular choice is a monomyth or the hero’s journey. In this structure, the hero goes on a difficult journey or takes on a challenge. After facing and overcoming obstacles they succeed and return home, transformed for the better.

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Presentation Transitions

Once you’ve decided on the structure of your presentation and have an outline developed, one of the most overlooked and important things to focus on is transitions within the presentation. Your presentation is a whole that’s composed of different topics and ideas that must connect.

If one idea doesn’t connect to the next or is out of place your audience will notice. It may happen on a subconscious level, but they will notice, and it will confuse them. Once they’re confused you lose them.

You must get your idea connections right on your outline before anything. Once it makes sense and connects you’ll still need to help your audience make those transitions and connections with specific words and phrases. Transitions can be one word, a phrase or a full sentence. Here are some useful transition words and phrases to use at specific points within your presentation.

Transitioning from the Introduction

Let the audience know you’re moving onto the first point by saying:

  • Now that you know where we’re going, let’s begin with…
  • First, let’s look at…
  • To get started, let’s first consider…

Connecting Similar Ideas

Move from one idea to a complimentary one by saying:

  • In the same way…
  • Likewise…
  • Equally…
  • This is similar to…
  • In the same vein…
  • You’ll recognize the similarity…

Summarizing

Internal summaries reinforce your point for the audience, helps them stay with the thread, and prepares them for the next connecting idea. Summarize before moving on to the next idea by saying:

  • In the first part of the presentation we covered…
  • It’s important to remember the context of what we just covered before we move onto…
  • Before we move onto the next section let’s reiterate the importance of…

Physical Movement

Your body is a great tool to signal transitions. You can move your body and your standing location when you want to transition to another point. Some useful techniques for incorporating movement into your presentation transitions include:

  • Start your introduction by standing center stage.
  • Stand on stage left for your first point.
  • Go back to center stage for point two.
  • Stand on stage right for your third point.
  • Conclude your presentation at center stage.

What Makes a Great Presentation?

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Once you have established a sound structure for your presentation you’ll need to deliver it. Having a good structure makes this part a lot easier, but you’ll need basic presentation skills and eventually advanced presentation skills to wow your audience.

How to Connect with Your Audience

Be sure to anticipate in advance and prepare for any questions you may receive during the presentation and in the Q&A segment.

Your primary job when presenting is to engage your audience. Unfortunately audiences aren’t so easily persuaded to pay attention. However, there are some techniques you can use to get their attention. Use variation in sight, sound, and evidence to connect and engage your audience.

Speak with Variation

We’ve all been victims of the monotonous speaker who puts us to sleep. Adding variation in your volume and speaking rate helps keep your audience attention. And when you speak with energy your passion comes through. If you’re not a naturally high energy speaker, you can make notes on which words to emphasize and add more vocal power. With practice you’ll get more comfortable and it will become more natural.

More Evidence

Varying the type of evidence you use to support claims builds your credibility in the eyes of your audience. Too often, presenters stick to a few sources of their favorite type of evidence. If you’re analytical you might just rely on data. Data only persuades certain personalities and you want to connect with everyone. Try providing three different types of evidence like data, testimonials, and anecdotes. This gives everyone in your audience multiple ways to connect with your ideas and remember them.

Better Visuals

Design your visuals to support your main points without taking the focus from the presenter.

If you’re using visuals in your presentation make sure they’re easy to see and read. Minimize text visuals and if you use text make it big. Always substitute a word with an image in your visuals if you possibly can. It’s more sticky and it allows your audience to focus on what you’re saying rather than disengaging to read text on a screen. Always make sure to check for copyright before using a visual in a public presentation.

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The Best Way to Practice for Presentations

Practice is important for delivering a polished presentation. However, many presenters aren’t quite sure about the best way to practice. Some will mentally rehearse or flip through a slide deck, but neither simulate what a real presentation feels like.

To practice effectively, you need to feel like you’re doing a presentation. You need to stand up and put your mind and body into presenter mode. Even when you’re presenting on video, you should stand up to project effectively. Standing also helps you remember it.

Speaking aloud is an important part of practice. Hearing your own voice and using relevant, appropriate gestures improve recall later. You remember more because your mental imagery and physical practice use overlapping neural networks and improve what is referred to as memory consolidation – the process by which thoughts are cemented into your long-term memory.

Practice by Verbalizing

Verbalize your presentation by saying it repeatedly out loud to an imaginary audience so it becomes smooth and concise.

Focused practice is when you take one aspect of your presentation, like the introduction, and deliver it repeatedly until you become familiar and comfortable with it. This is not memorizing, this is an opportunity to play with your material while embedding it in your long-term memory. Try delivering it in different ways.

Next move on to another aspect of your presentation, such as transitioning between topics or visual aids. Focused practice allows you to feel less anxious because you’re not focusing on the entire presentation at once. You can break it apart and practice in different pieces. This also allows you to identify which parts need more attention and which ones you’re comfortable with.

Presentation Skills Training Courses

Whatever new skill you’re trying to obtain, a quality training course can be worth its weight in gold. Investing in a fundamental skills training course not only expedites the learning time but gives you the much-needed confidence to get on stage or in front of an audience. This is why every successful company provides presentation skills, communication skills, public speaking skills, virtual training, and other online courses to their employees.

When you learn presentation skills and deliver engaging presentations new doors of opportunity open. A great presentation makes all the difference between audience engagement and a professional fail.

You have a lot of options when it comes to presentation courses for presentation skills and public speaking.

High quality presentation skills training shows you how to not only write and create your own presentation, but how to deliver it. There are four parts to every effective presentation – story, slides, delivery, and Q&A. When you get professional training you understand how to create and deliver presentations for any of life’s occasions. Presentation skills and public speaking are powerful skills that will carry you through life, and be one of the greatest investments you’ll ever make.