Category Archives: Structure

Foolproof Presentation Structure

Every great presentation carries a foolproof presentation structure, and this is it . . .

Foolproof Presentation Structure
Foolproof Presentation Structure to Win the Day

Whoa.  Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.  Here it is . . .

Beginning – Middle – End.

Every presentation, whether individual or group, should be organized according to this especially powerful presentation structure.

Don’t be deceived by its apparent simplicity.  This is the source of its power.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.

Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story part that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.

The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

Business Presentation Structure adds Impact
Your foolproof presentation structure is simple and sturdy, smart and strong

This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.  You can be innovative, you can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.  Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Foolproof Presentation Structure

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.  I suggest you use it to build your presentation structure in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to alter the structure to better suit your material.

Please do so.

But do so with careful thought and good reason.  And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.

This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.  Hence, the term “Bookends.”

And in-between, you explain what your “book” is about.

Build your story within this foolproof presentation structure and you’re on your way to an especially powerful business presentation.

For a more elaborate explanation on how presentation structure can enhance the power of your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bookend your Presentation

Bookend your Presentation
Bookending is a Powerful Presentation Structure Technique

Bookend your presentation to give the audience a satisfying experience.

You can bookend your segment of a group presentation, too.

“Bookend?”

What’s this bookending and why is it so important to audience response?

Bookending brings your audience full circle.

You first hook your audience with an intense introduction, and at then at the conclusion of your presentation, you recapitulate.

This provides a sense of closure and completion for the audience.

Begin with This . . .

The First Bookend.

This means to start your presentation with an anecdote, cue, or visual image that hooks your listeners into the narrative.  This is your “grabber.”

Your “hook.”

It can’t be a gimmick, or the audience will feel cheated.

Your grabber must startle and delight your audience.  An interesting fact, a controversial statement.

A powerful phrase.

Presentation Structure
Bookend your Presentation!

You then follow with your situation statement, which flows naturally from your grabber.

Your clear situation statement of only one or two sentences tells the audience exactly what they will hear.

Start to finish.

One of the best grabbers/situation statements I’ve ever heard was this pithy formulation:

“There’s a deal on the table.  Don’t take it.  Here’s why.”

That grabber is direct and is almost enough for a situation statement as well.  It pulses with power.  If you’re the one associated with the “deal on the table,” how could you not want to hear what comes next?

In fact, it encompasses the entire presentation in three especially powerful sentences.

That’s your first bookend.

Your Middle

Then you offer your major points of your presentation, usually three major points.

Why three?

Because of the Rule of Three that I have spoken of in this space so many times.  We seem to be hard-wired to receive information most efficiently in threes.

Whether it’s a slogan or a fairy tale, when information is grouped in threes, we respond well to it and we remember it better.

Duty.  Honor.  Country.

I came.  I saw.  I conquered.

“Stop.  Look.  Listen.”

“The Three Little Pigs.”

“Goldilocks and the Nine Bears.”

See how the last sentence jars?  Try to craft your presentation to constitute three parts.  For instance:  Product Concept, Marketing Plan, Financial Analysis.  Something like that.

This three-part presentation structure serves you well as a framework for most any presentation.

As you wind to a conclusion, you then construct your second and final bookend.

Now . . . Bookend Your Presentation!

You say these words:  “In conclusion, we can see that . . .”

Then, repeat your original situation statement.

With this simple technique, you hearken back to the original introductory anecdote, cue, or visual image that launched your presentation.

Finally, say:  “We believe that our presentation substantiates this.”

You come full-circle, so to speak, and the audience gains a sense of completeness.  Satisfaction.

This recapitulation of your theme knits together your segment into a whole.  Your audience appreciates the closure.

Rather than a linear march, where nothing said in your presentation seems to relate to anything that came before, you offer a satisfying circularity.  You bring your audience home.

You bring you audience back to the familiar starting point, and this drives home the major point of your talk in two especially powerful ways:

1) the outright repetition of your theme, cementing it in the minds of your listeners, and . . .

2) the story convention of providing a satisfying ending, tying up loose ends.  Giving psychological closure.

It’s an elegant technique that can pay big dividends in terms of audience response.  And it can imbue you with personal competitive advantage.

Try it.

For more especially powerful tips on how to bookend your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your essential companion throughout B-School.

Rule of Three

Rule of Three in Presentations
Your Business Presentation structure can rarely do better than this powerful Rule of Three in Presentations

Apply the Rule of Three to the middle section of your presentation.

You build your talk in stages, and you make the case for your recommendation.  Through all of this, the Rule of Three is the best method you can use.

Apply the Rule of Three . . . and apply it ruthlessly.

Here I offer controversial advice, and not every presentation guru will agree with it.  But it forms the basis for an especially powerful presentation.

With it, you never go wrong.

What is this Rule of Three?

For a moment, let’s consider this “Rule of Three.”

This is always a successful method in structuring the staging portion of your presentation.

Rule of Three in presentations means selecting the three main points from your material and making that the structure for your show.  Despite the fact that you may never have heard of the “rule of three,” it’s one of the most basic frameworks for public speaking.

It derives from something almost existential in the human psyche.

Think about this for a moment.

Something magical suffuses the number three.  We tend to grasp information most easily in threes.

Consider these examples:

Stop, look and listen – A wellknown public safety announcement

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” – William Shakespeare

Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar

“Blood, sweat and tears” – Winston Churchill

“Faith, Hope and Charity” – The Bible

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – the Declaration of Independence

“The good, the bad and the ugly” – Clint Eastwood Western

“Duty – Honor – Country.  Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur

The Rule of Three in presentations is a standard structural model advocated  by many presentation coaches.  And with good reason.  It’s a powerful framework, incredibly sturdy.  Think of it as a reliable vessel into which to pour your superb beverage.

With the rule of three, you can – literally – never err with regard to your presentation structure.

Here’s an Example . . .

Offer substantiation for your thesis and ultimate recommendation in three main points.

Strip down all of your convoluted arguments, all of your evidence, all of your keen analysis to the three major points that you believe make your case.

Let’s take an example.

Say that we begin show with our introductory situation statement and ultimate recommendation, and we give three positive reasons for our chosen course of action:  “ . . . this presentation demonstrates that this course of action is the best use of scarce resources among the alternatives, is fiscally sound, and serves as a basis for rapid growth.”

These three factors serve as your basic Rule of Three structure for the middle of your presentation.

  1. Most efficient use of resources over other expansion alternatives
  2. Financial Analysis of the projected acquisition
  3. Projected returns and growth rate

Does this mean that other information is not important?  Of course not.

It means that you’ve selected the most important points that make your case and that you want to rivet in the minds of the audience.  The Rule of Three in presentations means that you select the major facts not to be “comprehensive” in your presentation, but to be persuasive in your presentation.

With respect to subsidiary points that appear in your written analysis, you have the opportunity to address those issues in a question and answer session to follow your show.

Follow the Rule of Three.

For more proven techniques like the Rule of Three in presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Build Your Business Presentation

How to Build a Business Presentation
Build a Business Presentation that Exudes Power

Build an especially powerful Business Presentation with this simple structure:  Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every superb story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.

You should build a business presentation, whether individual or group, according to this structure.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.  Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.  The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

How to Build a Business Presentation
Build a Business Presentation that Convinces

This framework is not the only way you can build your business presentation.

You can be innovative.  You can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Build a Business Presentation to Withstand the Fire

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.

It’s an especially powerful structure, and I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to build a business presentation structure to better suit your material.

Please do so.  But do so with careful thought and good reason.

And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.

This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.

Hence, the term “Bookends.”  And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.

Build a business presentation within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

To learn more on how to build an especially powerful business presentation that has power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Bookend your Business Presentation Structure

Presentation Structure
Bookending is a Powerful Presentation Structure Technique

Bookend your presentation structure to give the audience a satisfying experience.

You can bookend your segment of a group presentation, too.

“Bookend?”

What’s this bookending and why is it so important to audience response?

Bookending brings your audience full circle, in a sense.  You first hook your audience with an intense introduction, and at then at the conclusion of your presentation, you recapitulate.

This provides a sense of closure and completion for the audience.

Presentation Structure Begins with This

The First Bookend.

This means to start your presentation with an anecdote, cue, or visual image that hooks your listeners into the narrative.  This is your “grabber.”

Your “hook.”

It can’t be a gimmick, or the audience will feel cheated.

Your grabber must startle and delight your audience.  An interesting fact, a controversial statement, a powerful phrase.

Presentation StructureAnd then you follow with your situation statement, which flows naturally from your grabber.

Your clear situation statement of only one or two sentences tells the audience exactly what they are about to hear, start to finish.

One of the best grabbers/situation statements I’ve ever heard was this pithy formulation:

“There’s a deal on the table.  Don’t take it.  Here’s why.”

That grabber is direct and is almost enough for a situation statement as well.  It pulses with power.  If you’re the one associated with the “deal on the table,” how could you not want to hear what comes next?

In fact, it encompasses the entire presentation in three especially powerful sentences.

That’s your first bookend.

The Middle of Your Presentation Structure

Then you offer your major points of your presentation, usually three major points.

Why three?

Because of the Rule of Three that I have spoken of in this space so many times.  We seem to be hard-wired to receive information most efficiently in threes.  Whether it’s a slogan or a fairy tale, when information is grouped in threes, we respond well to it and we remember it better.

Duty.  Honor.  Country.

I came.  I saw.  I conquered.

“Stop.  Look.  Listen.”

“The Three Little Pigs.”

“Goldilocks and the Nine Bears.”

See how the last sentence jars?  Try to craft your presentation to constitute three parts.  For instance:  Product Concept, Marketing Plan, Financial Analysis.  Something like that.

This three-part presentation structure can serve you well as a framework for most any presentation.

As you wind to a conclusion, you then construct your second and final bookend.

Recapitulation of your Presentation Structure

You say these words:  “In conclusion, we can see that—”  Then . . .

Repeat your original situation statement.  Hearken back to the original introductory anecdote, cue, or visual image that launched your presentation.

Finally, say:  “We believe that our presentation substantiates this.”

You come full-circle, so to speak, and the audience gains a sense of completeness.  This recapitulation of your theme knits together your segment into a whole.  Your audience appreciates the closure.

Rather than a linear march, where nothing said in your presentation seems to relate to anything that came before, you offer a satisfying circularity.  You bring your audience home.

You bring you audience back to the familiar starting point, and this drives home the major point of your talk in two especially powerful ways:  1) the outright repetition of your theme, cementing it in the minds of your listeners, and 2) the story convention of providing a satisfying ending, tying up loose ends, and giving psychological closure.

It’s an elegant technique that can pay big dividends in terms of audience response.

Try it.

For more especially powerful presentation structure tips like this, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your essential companion throughout B-School.

Presentation Pow!

Presentation Pow! can hook your audience
Presentation Pow is a Superb Way to Think of your Presentation Opening

Most students don’t know how to begin a presentation.

That’s not profound, you say?  You may, in fact, believe that it’s outright false.

Of course you know how to begin a presentation, right?

What kind of fool does this guy think I am?

But do you?  Really?

Does your intro have Presentation Pow?

Consider for a moment . . .

Do you begin confidently and strongly?

Or do you tiptoe into your presentation, as do so many people in school and in the corporate world?

Do you sidle into it?  Do you edge sideways into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing.

Do you back into it?

Do you actually start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points?  Is your story even relevant?

TURTLE, BOX, MALE, HEAD, LEG 2Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?

Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?

Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices you?

No Presentation Pow . . .

This lack of Presentation Pow is exemplified for me by an example I experienced several years ago.

I was viewing a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Sears case.  The lead presenter was Janie.  She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 60 years.

She spoke in monotone.

She flashed a timeline on the screen.  Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.

I wondered at what all of this might mean.  I waited for a linking thread.

I waited for her main point.  As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed.  The linking thread had not come.

Presentation Pow is your Key
Random Facts Destroy Presentation Pow

It dawned on me that she had no point.  The linking thread would never come.

At the end of her segment, I asked her:

“Janie, what was that beginning all about?  How did your segment relate to Sears strategic challenges in the case at hand?”

“Those were just random facts,” she said.

“Random facts?”

“Yes!” she said brightly.

And she was quite ingenuous about it.

Random facts.

She was giving “random facts,” and she thought that it was acceptable to begin a business case presentation this way.  I do not say this to disparage her.  Not at all.

In fact, she later became one of my most coachable students, improving her presentation skills tremendously, and has since progressed to graduate school.

But what could convince a student that an assembly of “random facts” is acceptable at the beginning of a presentation?  Is it the notion that anything you say at the beginning is okay?

Let’s go over the beginning, shall we?

Together, let’s craft a template beginning that you can always use, no matter what your show is about.  When you become comfortable with it, you can then modify it to suit the occasion.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

You begin with your introduction.  Here, you present the Situation Statement.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear.  It’s the reason you and your audience are there.  What will you tell them?

The audience is gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution . . . or to hear of success and how it will continue . . . or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here.  Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk.  Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow!

It focuses everyone on the topic.  Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk.  Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clear your throat with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign.  Do not start this way:

“Good morning, how is everyone doing?  Good.  Good!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity.  I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia.  Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation.  We’re hoping that—”

No . . . no . . . and no.

Presentation Pow for Especially Powerful Presentations
Presentation Pow for Especially Powerful Presentations

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2009 and increase our market share by another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next four quarters to result in a much stronger and competitive market position 12  months from now.”

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid. No “random facts.”

No wasted words.

No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.

State the reason you are there.  Clearly and directly.

Put the Pow in Power!

Now, let’s add more Pow to it.  A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“As we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position in three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now determines Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.  We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and what our marketing team will do about it to retain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember that in any story, there must be change.  The very reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.  We must explain this change.

We must craft a response to this change.  And we must front-load our introduction with Presentation Pow to include our recommendation.

That is why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To provide your recommendations.

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.

Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

Interested in more? Click here. 

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter with Professional Presence
Malcolm X was a Great Presenter. No more powerful example of a superb presenter can be found

Like snapping a towel to skin, you want to sting your audience in a good way.  Malcolm X was a great presenter, and he used this technique better than most.

He could snap his audience to attention.  He compelled his listeners to sit up straight, to focus on his message.

You can do this several ways, too.  It’s up to you what method you choose, but it should fit your audience and your presentation.

One effective method is the use of a “grabber” line.  This is a surprising and unconventional sentence or an unusual fact that immediately alerts the audience that its about to hear something special.

Not just another canned talk.

One of the finest public speakers – or presenters – of modern times was the late Malcolm X.  Yes, Malcolm X was a great presenter, and his speeches are textbook examples of how to grab an audience, mesmerize it throughout his presentation, and then mobilize it with an especially powerful call to action.

The Effects of Rhetoric

Whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant to the point that he was a captivating communicator.  He drew from a deep well of powerful presentation techniques.

Malcolm’s speeches are just that – speeches – and they are written for the ear and not the eye.  As such, they are best read aloud so as to absorb the measured beats, to feel the repetition of key phrases.

And to learn the effects of certain rhetorical flourishes.

And when you read sentence after sentence, you sense the power and the deep moral outrage coming through, sometimes explicit but most often through a steady recapitulation of ideas using different phrases, but key words.

Malcolm X was a great presenter

You gain a sense of the gathering storm.  You almost hear rolling thunder in the distance.

Today, I mine his speeches for their cadences, their imagery, their use of allegory, anaphora, and turns of phrase.

With respect to grabbing an audience’s attention, too many presentations and speeches begin with routine thank-yous and ingratiation of the audience.

Bad presentations launch with a peppering of routine phrases, a gripping of the podium and a squinting at notes or jerky backward glances at an unreadable projection screen.

Remember that a speech is tremendously different from a written document.  Pauses and repetition, tone and inflection are essential with the spoken word.

Especially Powerful Technique

Let’s look at the beginning of a typical Malcolm X speech and see how he grabs his audience.  Read it with his spoken delivery in mind.

This speech – Message to the Grass Roots – was delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963.  Irrespective of the time and place and circumstance, which of course leavens our approach, note that Malcolm begins his talk by immediately establishing intimacy with the audience.

We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me . . . us.  We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem.  Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem.

In the space of four sentences, Malcolm has drawn in his listeners.  He has laid out a situation statement that, at that moment, captivated his audience.

He established a mood of confidentiality and rapport, and then makes a bold statement – “America has a very serious problem . . . We have a very serious problem.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear what comes next?

Malcolm X was a Great Presenter with Power and Depth

Notice that he did not engage in throat-clearing and chit-chat.

No “Thank you Mr. Chairman” . . . no “So good to see so many committed activists tonight and familiar faces in the crowd.”  Notice also the use of repetition of key phrases: “Very serious problem.”

Straight to the point, and a bold point it is.  See what comes next . . .

America’s problem is us.  We’re her problem.  The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here.  And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted.  Once you fact this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

Has Malcolm studied his audience?  Is he reaching out with a message that is directly relevant to his listeners?

Most of all, has he grabbed your attention?

He surely has.

Malcolm was expert at executing Presentation Snap, grabbing his listeners in a way that zeroed in on them . . . on their needs, concerns, desires, hopes . . . framing the issue in colorful language, and creating listener expectations that he will offer bold and radical solutions to real problems.

For now, focus on the grabber to seize the attention of your audience.  Mull this excellent example from Malcolm’s talk.  Ask yourself how he contrived it . . . and how it works.

In subsequent posts, we look at more examples from Malcolm X as he moves through delivery of his presentation and builds to his call for action at the end.

For more on how you can use Malcom X’s techniques to develop especially powerful business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Structure that is Foolproof

structure

Design a Business Presentation structure with this simple framework: Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.

You should build a business presentation, whether individual or group, according to this structure.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well. Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation. The first speaker delivers the beginning. The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle. The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

How to Build a Business Presentation Structure

This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.

You can be innovative. You can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

A Sturdy Business Presentation Structure

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.

I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to build a business presentation structure to better suit your material.

Please do so. But do so with careful thought and good reason.

And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends. You should Bookend your show. This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.

Hence, the term “Bookends.” And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.

Build a business presentation within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

To learn more on how to build a business presentation structure that has power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Business Presentation Structure . . . the Foolproof Framework

How to Build a Business Presentation Structure
Build a Powerful Business Presentation Structure

Build a Presentation with this simple business presentation structure:  Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.

You should build a business presentation structure, whether individual or group, according to this framework.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.  Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.

The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

How to Build a Business Presentation

This framework is not the only way you can fashion your business presentation structure.

You can be innovative.  You can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Build a Sturdy Business Presentation Structure

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.

I suggest you use it to build your presentation in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to build a business presentation structure to better suit your material.

Business Presentation Structure for power and impact
Business Presentation Structure can make or break your show

Please do so.  But do so with careful thought and good reason.

And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.  This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.

Hence, the term “Bookends.”  And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.

Build a business presentation within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

To learn more on how to build a business presentation structure that has power and impact, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Magic . . . YOU Provide it

presentation magic in pills?
There are no presentation magic pills to rescue a lame effort

For your presentation, do you ever throw together a half-dozen makeshift slides cut-and-pasted from a written report, larded with bullet points, and then rely on some sort of last-minute presentation magic to save your butt?

Wishful thinking that maybe PowerPoint pyrotechnics can save the day?

Perhaps the bravado of phony self-confidence to get you through a painful experience?

Guilty as charged?

Most of us are at one point or another.

And the results can be heinous.

Software “Presentation Magic” Cannot Save You

The results are slides that confuse the audience rather than reinforce your major points delivered in awful, mind-numbing presentations.

There is a cost for serving up what designer Nancy Duarte calls “bad slides.”  Nancy says in her book Slideology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations:

“Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career.  Invest in your slides, but invest in your own visual skills as well.  The alternative is to inadvertently commit career suicide.”

Absent specific instruction, you might believe that it’s acceptable to simply cut and paste graphics from a written report directly onto a slide.

Why not?

Who says this is a bad idea?

After all, the professor wants to see certain material on the screen, doesn’t he?  Well, I’m giving it to him.  ’nuff said.

This is awful for the reason that the slide presentation sometimes doubles for a written document.  This is an incredibly stupid mistake.

One . . . or the Other

Your PowerPoint can serve admirably one or the other purpose . . . but not both.

Presentation Magic does not exist
You Create the Presentation Magic . . . not the Software

The presentation – or show – is an entirely different form of communication than the written document that is meant to be reviewed later.

Never let one serve in place of the other.

Prepare two separate documents if necessary, one to serve as your detailed written document, the other to serve as the basis for your show.

When you commit the error of letting a written document serve as your public presentation, here’s what usually happens: You project a parade of abominably cluttered slides onto the screen while you talk about them.  Usually prefacing what you say with the words “As you can see . . . .”  [this is called As You Can See Syndrome, or AYCSS]

The results are quite often poor, if not downright ugly and embarassing for all concerned.

It’s a roadmap to disaster.

But the insidious part is that no one tells you the results are disastrous.

And they do not tell you what makes your creation an abomination.

So let’s discuss the types of issues you face in assembling your show.

No Presentation Magic in Your Slide Deck

Start by recognizing that no slide show can substitute for a lack of ideas, a lack of preparation, and lack of a story to tell.

Nifty slides cannot save you.

PowerPoint cannot rescue you with its colors, sound, and animation.  This is akin to Hollywood filmmakers who spend millions of dollars on dazzling special effects and neglect the story.  They bomb miserably.

On the other hand, you can craft a winning film with a superb story and drama, but with minimal special effects: See the classic Henry Fonda film 12 Angry Men.  You cannot craft a winning film with no story.

Or a bad story populated with people you don’t care about.

Forget the notion that slides are somehow the backbone of your show.  They have no special properties.  They can merely enhance your show . . . and they can most assuredly help destroy it.

Presenting coach Aileen Pincus makes this point in her 2008 book Presenting:

“Slides are not a magic pill; they won’t organize a disorganized presentation; they won’t give a point to a presentation that doesn’t really have one; and they never make a convincing presentation on their own.”

So is there a reasonably easy way to get around this busy-slide pathology?

Of course, and this leads us to one solution to the problem of overburdened slides.  Remember three words when you prepare your slides, and you can eliminate 90 percent of your PowerPoint pathologies.

Orient . . . Eliminate . . . Emphasize

First, orient your audience to the overall financial context.

If you take information from a balance sheet or want to display company profit growth for a period of years, then display the sheet in its entirety to orient the audience.  Tell the audience they view a balance sheet.

Walk to the screen and point to the information categories.  Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”

You provide the Presentation Magic
Great Speakers like Malcolm X bring their own Presentation Magic to performance . . . and so should you

Second, eliminate everything on the screen that you do not talk about.  If you do not refer to it, it should not appear on your slide.  Strip the visual down to the basic numbers and categories you use to make your point.

Third, emphasize the important points by increasing the size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers.  You can illustrate the meaning of the numbers by utilizing a chart or graph.

When you orient, eliminate, and emphasize, you polish your meaning to a high sheen, and you are on your way to an especially powerful presentation.  You dump distractors that leech the strength and from your presentation.

And, consequently, by substraction you infuse your presentation with power.  You provide your own presentation magic that arises from your skill as an especially powerful presenter.

Want more on providing your own presentation magic?  Consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Powerful Business Presentation Structure

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.  Business presentation structureEvery presentation structure should reflect this framework.

Let me rephrase.

Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.

Every presentation, whether individual or group, should be organized according to this structure.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.

Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes; during that four-minute span, you tell your story that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

Consider Your Business Presentation Structure

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.  The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

Business Presentation Structure

This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.  You can be innovative.  You can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a sense of ersatz “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.

Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Tested in the Fire

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.

I suggest you use it to build your presentation structure in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to alter the structure to better suit your material.  Please do so.  But do so with careful thought and good reason.

And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.

This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.

Hence, the term “Bookends.”  And in-between, you explain what your bookends are about.

Build your story within this structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

For more on especially powerful business presentation structure, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Especially Powerful Presentation Openings

The Presentation Opening
The Presentation Opening sets the tone for your Business Presentation

Of course you know how to begin a business presentation with a powerful presentation opening.

The Presentation Opening is surely easy.

Right?

But do you really know how to launch a powerful presentation?

Consider for a moment . . .

Don’t Tiptoe

Do you begin confidently and strongly?  Or do you tiptoe into your presentation opening, as do so many people in school and in the corporate world?

Do you sidle into it?  Do you edge sideways into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing.

Do you back into it?

Do you actually start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points?  Is your story even relevant?  Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?  Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?

Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices.

A Bad Presentation Opening

I viewed a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Walmart case.  The lead presenter was Janie.  She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 40 years.

She spoke in monotone.  She flashed a timeline on the screen.

Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.

I wondered at what all of this might mean.

I waited for a linking thread.

Craft a superb presentation opening
Grab Your Audience with The Presentation Opening

I waited for her main point.  As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed.  The linking thread had not come.

The linking thread would never come . . . it dawned on me that she had no point.  At the end of her segment, I asked a gentle question.

“Janie, what was that beginning all about?  How did your segment relate to Wal-Mart’s strategic challenges in the case at hand?”

“Those were just random facts,” she said.

“Random facts?”

“Yes!” she said brightly.

And she was quite ingenuous about it.

The Wrong Presentation Opening

She was reciting “random facts,” and she thought that it was acceptable to begin a business case presentation this way.  I do not say this to disparage her.

Not at all.

In fact, she later became one of my most coachable students, improving her presentation skills tremendously.

She has since progressed to graduate school.  And now she delivers powerful presentation openings.

But what could convince a student that an assembly of “random facts” is acceptable at the beginning of a presentation?  Is it the notion that anything you say for a presentation opening is okay?

Let’s go over the beginning, shall we?

Together, let’s craft a template beginning that you can always use, no matter what your show is about.  When you become comfortable with it, you can then modify it to suit the occasion.

You begin with your presentation opening.  Here, you present the Situation Statement.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear.  It’s the reason you and your audience are there.  What do you tell them?

The audience has gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution.  Or to hear of success and how it will continue.  Or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here.  Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk.  Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow!  It focuses everyone on the topic.

Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk.  Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clutter your presentation opening with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign. Do not start this way:

“Good morning, how is everyone doing?  Good.  Good!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity.  I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia.  Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation.  Again, thank you for your attention and time.  We’re hoping that—”

No . . . no . . . and no.

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

Craft a powerful presentation opening for energy
Especially Powerful hooks and grabbers for your presentation opening

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2013 and increase our market share by another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next four quarters to result in a much stronger and competitive market position 12  months from now.”

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid.  No “random facts.”  No wasted words.

No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.  Just an especially powerful and direct statement of the reason you are there.

Put the Pow in Power!

Now, let’s add some Pow to it.  A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“Even as we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.

“We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and what our marketing team will do about it to retain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember in any story, there must be change.

The very reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.  We must explain this change.  We must craft a response to this change.  And we must front-load our intro to include our recommendation.

That is why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To provide your recommendations.

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.

Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

For more on crafting an especially powerful presentation opening, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

 

How to Pass the Baton in Your Business Presentation

Pass the Baton
Musical Chairs during a Business Presentation is a formula for failure . . . practice how you pass the baton!

One of the least-practiced aspects of the group presentation is how you pass the baton – the transition between speakers.

Yet these baton-passing linkages within your presentation are incredibly important.

They connect the conclusion of one segment and the introduction of the next.

Shouldn’t this connecting link be as strong as possible, so that your audience receives the intended message?  So the message isn’t lost in a flurry of scurrying presenters moving about the stage in unpracticed, chaotic fashion?

Don’t Lose Your Message!

It sounds absurd, but group members often develop their individual presentation segments on their own, and then the group tries to knit them together on the day of the group show.

This is a formula for disaster.

The result is a bumbling game of musical chairs and hot-baton-passing.  Imagine a sports team that prepared for its games this way, with each player practicing his role individually and the players coming together as a team only on the day of the game and expecting the team to work together seamlessly.

Sports teams don’t practice this way.  Serious people don’t practice this way.

Don’t you practice this way.

Don’t yield to the tendency on the part of a team of three or four people to treat the presentation as a game of musical chairs.

Pass the Baton Without Musical Chairs

This happens when each member presents a small chunk of material, and the presenters take turns presenting.  Lots of turns.   This “pass the baton” can disconcert your audience and can upend your show.

Minimize the passing of the baton and transitions, particularly when each person has only three or four minutes to present.

Pass the Baton!
To pass the baton in a presentation is no easy task . . . it takes preparation and the right kind of practice

I have also noticed a tendency to rush the transition between speakers.

Often, a presenter will do fine until the transition to the next topic.  At that point, before finishing, the speaker turns while continuing to talk, and the last sentence or two of the presentation segment is lost.

The speaker walks away while still talking.  While still citing a point.  Perhaps an incredibly important point.

Don’t rush from the stage.  Stay planted in one spot until you finish.

Savor your conclusion, the last sentence of your portion, which should reiterate your Most Important Point.

Introduce your next segment.  Then transition.  Then pass the baton with authority.

Harmonize your Messages

Your message itself must mesh well with the other segments of your show.

Each presenter must harmonize  the message with the others of a business presentation.  These individual parts should make sense as a whole, just as parts of a story all contribute to the overall message.

“On the same page” . . .  “Speaking with one voice” . . .    These are the metaphors that urge us to message harmony.  This means that one member does not contradict the other when answering questions.

It means telling the same story and contributing crucial parts of that story so that it makes sense.

This is not the forum to demonstrate that team members are independent thinkers or that diversity of opinion is a good thing.

Moreover, everyone should be prepared to deliver a serviceable version of the entire presentation, not just their own part.  This is against the chance that one or more of the team can’t present at the appointed time.  Cross-train in at least one other portion of the presentation.

Remember:  Harmonize your messages . . . Speak with one voice . . . Pass the baton smoothly.

You can find more discussion on how to pass the baton in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting, your key to personal competitive advantage in business school and beyond.

Put the Pow! into Powerful Business Presentations

Especially Powerful Business Presentations mean personal competitive advantage
Powerful Business Presentation Skills Yield Personal Competitive Advantage

You can front-load your introduction and put the Pow! into Powerful Business Presentations to  seize your audience from the first second of your show.

Or you can tiptoe into your business presentation so no one notices you.

Which would you choose?

You’d choose the introduction with Pow, of course!

But many people don’t.

Many folks in business school, in fact, simply don’t launch powerful business presentations for one excellent reason.

The Reason Why Many Business Presentations Sputter

Many folks don’t know how to begin a presentation.

Do you?

What?

“Of course I know how to begin a presentation.  What kind of fool does this guy think I am?”

But do you?  Really?

Does your intro have Pow?  Consider for a moment . . .

Do you begin confidently and strongly?  Or do you tiptoe into your presentation, like so many people in school and in the corporate world?

Do you sidle into it?  Do you edge into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing?  Do you back into it?

Powerful Business Presentation
Do you poke your head out instead of delivering a powerful business presentation?

Do you actually start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points?  Is your story even relevant?  Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?

Do you shift and dance?

Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown?  Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker?  Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices you?

One major problem with all of this is that you exhibit horrendous body language that destroys your credibility.

Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement

You begin with your grabber . . . then follow immediately with your Situation Statement.

The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear.  It’s the reason you and your audience are there.

What will you tell them?  The audience is gathered to hear about a problem and its proposed solution . . . or to hear of success and how it will continue . . . or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.

Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here.  Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk.  Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.

A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow!  It focuses everyone on the topic.

Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk, thanking the board for the “opportunity,” thanking the conference staff, thanking the bartender for generous pours.

 powerful business presentations
Personal Competitive Advantage through Powerful Business Presentations

Don’t tip-toe into it.  Don’t be vague.  Don’t clear your throat with endless apologetics or thank yous.

What do I mean by this?

You Need Pow!

Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign.  Do not start this way:

“Good morning, how is everyone doing?  Good.  Good!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity.  I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia.  Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation.  We’re hoping that—”

No . . . no . . . and no.

Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!

Try starting this way:

“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2011 and increase our market share.  By another 10 percent.  A campaign to lead us into the next year to result in a much stronger and competitive market position.”

You see?  This is not the best intro, but it’s solid.  No “random facts.”  No wasted words.  No metaphorical throat-clearing.

No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing.

You have set the stage for a powerful business presentation.

Put the Pow into Your Powerful Business Presentation!

Now, let’s add some Pow to it.  A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:

“As we sit here today — right now —  changes in our industry attack our firm’s competitive position three ways.  How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival . . . or collapse.  Our recommended response?  Aggressive growth.  We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and our marketing team’s  solution to regain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”

Remember in any story, there must be change.  The reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes.

We must explain this change.  We must craft a response to this change.

And we must front-load our introduction with Pow! to include our recommendation.

That’s why you have assembled your team.  To explain the threat or the opportunity.  To provide your analysis.  To recommend action!

Remember, put Pow into your beginning.  Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.  Right at the start.

Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

For more on putting the Pow! into powerful business presentations, have a look here.

The Only Presentation Structure You Need

The Complete Guide to Business Presentation Structure: What your professors don't tell you... What you absolutely must know
Do you even think about the overall structure of your business presentation, or do you plunge right in?

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End.

Every presentation – every story – has this framework.

Let me rephrase.  Your presentation ought to have this framework, or you’re already in deep trouble.

Every presentation, whether individual or group, should be organized according to this presentation structure.

Beginning . . . Middle . . . End

If you’re engaged in a group presentation, each segment of the show has this structure as well.  Your segment has this structure.

In fact, every member of a team has this same task – to deliver a portion of the presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end.

In other words, when you are the member of a 5-person team and you are presenting for, say, four minutes, during that four-minute span, you tell your story part that has a beginning, middle, and an end.

In the diagram below, each of the boxes represents a speaker on a five-person team delivering a group presentation.  The first speaker delivers the beginning.  The second, third, and fourth speakers deliver the middle.  The final speaker delivers the conclusion or the “end.”

Note that each speaker uses the same beginning-middle-end format in delivering his portion of the show.

Business Presentation Structure adds Impact
Your presentation structure should be simple and sturdy, smart and strong

This framework is not the only way you can build your presentation.  You can be innovative, you can be daring, fresh, and new.

You can also fail miserably if you plunge into uncharted “innovative” territory just for a false sense of “variety” or “fresh ideas” or self-indulgence.  Sparkle and pop spring from the specifics of your message and from your keen, talented, and well-practiced delivery.

Sparkle and pop do not spring from experimental structures and strange methods that swim against the tide of 2,500 years of experience that validate what works . . . and what fails.

Presentation Structure Tested in the Fire

Beginning-middle-end is the most reliable and proven form, tested in the fires of history and victorious against all comers.  I suggest you use it to build your presentation structure in the initial stages.

You may find that as you progress in your group discussions, you want to alter the structure to better suit your material.  Please do so.

But do so with careful thought and good reason.  And always with the audience in mind and the task of communicating your main points concisely, cogently . . . and with über focus.

One way to think of your part of the presentation is material sandwiched between two bookends.  You should Bookend your show.  This means to make your major point at the beginning and then to repeat that major point at the end.  Hence, the term “Bookends.”  And in-between, you explain what the book is about.

Build your story within this presentation structure and you’re on your way to a winning presentation.

For a more elaborate explanation on how presentation structure can enhance the power of your presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Surviving the Group Presentation . . . PART 1

Why We Have Problems with Group Presentations . . .

You find all sorts of problems in group work.  Anyone who has participated in even one group project in college knows this.

Perhaps you believe these challenges are external to you?  Others cause problems, because surely you must not be contributing to the challenges facing your group?

Let’s examine, understand, and overcome these challenges before they get out-of-hand.

The first major reason is the unpredictability of your situation.  One key characteristic of your group presentation is its rampant unpredictability.  The project appears submerged in ambiguity that we seem powerless to affect.

It’s bad enough to face the unknown variables of case analysis and its attendant presentation, but then several other variables are added to the mix in the form of . . .  those pesky other people.

We all prefer to control our own destinies.  Most all of us want to be judged on our own work.  We like to work alone.  This is very much the craftsman’s view.  Our labors are important to us.  We take pride in our work.

But with group work, the waters muddy.  It becomes difficult to identify who is doing what, and consequently, we worry about who will get the credit.

We worry if there will even be any credit to distribute if our presentation collapses under the burden of multiple minds and differing opinions and people who seem not to care.

Collaboration is a fact of life in business presentations . . . if you can master it, you add to your personal competitive advantage

We begin to worry that our contribution will be overlooked.  We worry that someone else will take credit for our work and we’ll be left with the crumbs.

We see ourselves becoming submerged, and as we sink into a kind of group ethos, our individual identity is threatened.  How will the boss, the professor, or anyone else, know what we do?  How will they know our contribution?

With every additional person, the unknown variables multiply.  Worse, what if we get saddled with a reputation for poor work because someone else screwed up?

The second major reason for group failure is the ordeal of time management and schedule coordination.  Six different students, each with differing class schedules and who often are working part-time, must somehow work together.  Moreover, you may be involved in several classes that require group projects.  And you invariably are faced with the pathology of one or two team members who “don’t have time for this.”

So the difficulties mentioned here multiply.

Why the Group Presentation? It’s a Complex World

The group presentation is not an easy task.  It can be downright painful.  Infuriating.  It can turn student-against-student faster than anything else in college outside of Greek rush.

So why do your professors require them?  Why do all of your B-school professors seem determined to put you through this misery?

You’ve probably heard the spurious reasons.  One pervasive student myth is that professors assign group work so they can cut their own grading work load.  The reasoning goes something like this: it is much easier for a professor to grade six presentations or papers than to grade 30 individual papers.  This myth is so pervasive that it has become conventional wisdom among students.  There are three big problems with this.

First, by definition, individual work is not group work.  If group work is an essential part of the workplace experience, then individual papers or other assignments do not contribute to the learning experience that is specifically designed to prepare you for the workplace.

Second, professors often are required to assign some form of group work in their courses.  The prevailing pedagogy in most business schools advocates the group work experience as essential to prepare students for the 21st Century workplace.  Frankly, this is the way it should be.

Third, this myth assumes that professors enjoy watching students stumble their way through awkward presentations, poorly prepared and half-heartedly delivered.  While you, as a student, prepare for only one or two presentations, the professor oftentimes must watch 25 presentations or more during a semester and then evaluate them.

I assure you that this can be an unpleasant experience.

Embrace Group Work

The proverbial bottom line that we all talk about in business school is this: You do “group work” because it is essential to the 21st Century business world.  In fact, corporate recruiters list it as the second-most-desired skill in the job candidates they consider.  So why not embrace the group presentation as a necessary component of your school experience?

The days of the business generalist are all but dead in corporate America. Specialization rules the business workplace, and the manipulation of knowledge is ascendant. This means, from a practical standpoint, that we cannot produce major products by ourselves.  There is little doubt that you will become one of these knowledge-workers upon graduation.

You also will begin to specialize in certain work, especially if you join a large firm. This is because business operations today are incredibly complex and fast-paced.

These two factors make it almost impossible for any one person to isolate himself or herself from the combined operations of the firm. Major tasks are divided and divided again. Think of it as an extreme form of division of labor.

So we must work with others. The globalized and complex business context demands it.

In Part II, I show you how to not only survive the Group Presentation, but how to thrive and turn it into the cornerstone experience for your first job out of school . . . or your next job after getting your MBA.

Do you ooze into your Business Presentation Introduction?

Business presentation Introduction

Here are sage words on the business presentation introduction . . .

Words that are so sage, they hail from 1935.

The venerable Richard Borden cautions us not to “ooze” into our introduction, and his particular 1935 coinage struck me as, yes, sage.

It also strikes me as a mighty good description of what happens at the start of many business presentations.

Oozing instead of launching.

Borden offers us much more.

Business Presentation Introductions for Power and Impact

With a collection of rare books on public speaking consisting of more than 1000 volumes reaching back to 1727, its inevitable that I come across the occasional gem to share – this one on the business presentation introduction.

And so it is that I distill the wisdom of old-time writers into chunks of advice administered in my own classes and seminars.  But occasionally, the original is so darned quaint that it carries the charm of the decade in which it was crafted.

The original can be an especially powerful tool.

Let me share some of the pithier advice that begs our attention from more than half a century ago.

Bordens 1935 volume Public Speaking as Listeners Like it could replace any dozen modern “Business Communications” textbooks, and students would be the better for the exchange.  Enjoy . . .

Use your key-issue sentence as your opening sentence.

A good conference speaker opens his comment like a knife thrower throws his knife – point first!

Conference room listeners are not leisurely listeners.  They are executives who have business on hand that they are anxious to get done.

“What do you want us to do with the pending issue – and why?”

This is the question which your listeners ask the very second you rise to your feet.  “What?  Why?”

Don’t delay your answer.  If you delay it even a few sentences, you may get an unfavorable listener reaction.  “Will he ever come to the point” is an un-uttered question which forms quickly in impatient minds.

Owen D. Young was once asked how he made such swift decisions.

“A man will come to your desk, Mr. Young,” said the questioner, “and present a fairly elaborate proposal.  Instead of saying that you will take it under advisement for several weeks, you say Yes or No – and your swift decision is usually right.  How do you do it?”

“When I tell you how I make those swift decisions,” replied Mr. Young, “you may think that I am guided by an unreliable index – but I have found it’s an index that works.  I am guided very largely by the first sentence uttered by the man interviewing me.

“I have found from experience that if my interviewer doesn’t thoroughly understand the proposal he is presenting, his first sentence will be confused.

“If he secretly doesn’t believe in the proposal, his first sentence will be evasive.

“If the details of the proposal aren’t concrete in his own mind, his first sentence will be abstract.

“On the other hand, a proposal that is opened by a sentence which is clear, compact, and concrete – is usually worthwhile.”

If you would please not only the Owen D. Youngs in your audience, but all the other conference listeners who instinctively apply the same first-sentence test, start strongly.

Don’t ooze into your speech.  Begin point first – with your thumbtack key-issue sentence.

For more pithy commentary on the foibles of oozing into your business presentation introduction, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

How to Craft Your Presentation Conclusion

Your Presentation Conclusion can wrap up your presentation with power

Do you ever think of how you’ll end your presentation . . . with a carefully prepared presentation conclusion?

Do you carefully craft your conclusion so that your audience is left with the most powerful points you were trying to make?   Do you practice that presentation conclusion?

Do you ensure that your ending is concise, pithy, and especially powerful?  And if it’s not, have you ever wondered how the audience views you when you continue talking with nothing more to say?   A friendly audience quickly becomes a hostile army.

Don’t Forget to Prepare Your Presentation Conclusion

This phenomenon has lurked with us for hundreds of years, since the first school of public speaking was founded in the 5th Century B.C. by Corax.  J. Berg Esenwein sagely observed more than a century ago that:

“Few speakers discern that length does not indicate depth.  Better stop before you are done than to go on after you have finished.  Only makers of short speeches are invited to speak again.”

Grenville Kleiser, another presentation master notes the disparity between how we give the presentation conclusion only a nod when we should be lavishing on it a manic focus guaranteed to drive our main point to the hearts of our listeners . . .

It is the most vital part of a speech, the supreme moment when the speaker is to drive his message home and make his most lasting impression.  This calls for the very best that is in a man.  . . . it should be short, simple, and earnest.  [T]he temptation to make the closing appeal too long should be carefully avoided.  Whether the speech be memorized throughout or not, the speaker should know specifically the thought, if not the phraseology, with which he intends to end his address.”

I criticize public speaking adages as shortcut substitutes for learning how to be an exceptional presenter, but one pithy public speaking saying goes like this:  “Check your tie, check your fly, say your piece and say goodbye.”  Strangely enough, it’s the “goodbye” part that can be difficult for some people, young and old, male and female.

In fact, it’s common to see young speakers spiral out of control on the downside of a fine presentation.

The presentation conclusion trips them up.

Presentation Conclusions That Spiral Down

I have seen great student presentations founder at the last minute, because no one had thought it through all the way to the end.  No one had thought to prepare or to practice how they would end the presentation.  So it ended with a whimper instead of a powerful recapitulation of the main point.

Your Powerful Presentation ConclusionSo it remains as one of the most difficult tasks to convey to a young speaker – the importance of knowing when and how to stop.

Why is this important?

Because:

1) The conclusion is the last impression you leave your audience as you call them to action.

2) If not planned, your conclusion can and most likely will expand into another speech, and few things turn off an audience more.

3) This potentially powerful part of your show becomes, instead, a debilitating albatross that subtracts value.

Despite all of this, the ending remains a neglected aspect of the presentation.  Its chief pathology is the speaker’s inability to stop.  Here, I l let several of the great presentation masters speak to an issue that has plagued speakers for centuries.  William Hoffman said in 1935 that:

“It is well to have an ending in mind.  What the speaker says last is remembered first by the audience.  When he has hinted that he is about to conclude, he will spoil everything if he continues to plod along looking for a place to stop.  The audience is already in the mood to leave and is impatient with this failure to wind up the business promptly.  Annoyance is the only response to ‘one more thing,’ ‘as I said before,’ ‘I urge you once again,’ ‘I forgot to say,’ and the other pathetic delays of the speaker who is through but does not know it.”

From 2100 years ago, Quintilian tells us this about the conclusion:

“The repetition and summing up is intended both to refresh the memory of the judge, to set the whole cause at once before his view, and to enforce such arguments anybody as had produced an insufficient effect in detail.  In this part of our speech, what we repeat ought to be repeated as briefly as possible, and we must, as is intimated by the Greek term, run over only the principal heads; for, if we dwell upon them, the result will be, not a recapitulation, but a sort of second speech.”

Just as important, do not flee the stage prematurely.  Do not run off-stage as you deliver your last lines.

Do not destroy your conclusion in a flurry of movement, losing the last sentence in a turn of the head and a rush to leave the stage.  Make your Most Important Point . . . and let your conclusion sink in.

For more on delivering a powerful presentation conclusion, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Rule of Three in Presentations

Rule of Three in Presentations
Your Business Presentation structure can rarely do better than this powerful Rule of Three in Presentations

Apply the Rule of Three to the middle section of your presentation.

You build your talk in stages, and you make the case for your recommendation.  Through all of this, the Rule of Three is the best method you can use.

Yes, apply the Rule of Three . . . and apply it ruthlessly.

Here I offer controversial advice, and not every presentation guru will agree with it.  But it forms the basis for an especially powerful presentation.

With it, you never go wrong.

What is this Rule of Three?

For a moment, let’s consider this “Rule of Three.”  This is always a successful method in structuring the staging portion of your presentation.

The Rule of Three in presentations means selecting the three main points from your material and making that the structure for your show.  Despite the fact that you may never have heard of the “rule of three,” it’s one of the most basic frameworks for public speaking, and it derives from something almost existential in the human psyche.

Think about this for a moment.  There is something magical about the number three.  We tend to grasp information most easily in threes.  Consider these examples:

Stop, look and listen – A wellknown public safety announcement

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” – William Shakespeare

Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar

“Blood, sweat and tears” – Winston Churchill

“Faith, Hope and Charity” – The Bible

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – the Declaration of Independence

“The good, the bad and the ugly” – Clint Eastwood Western

“Duty – Honor – Country.  Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur

The Rule of Three in presentations is a standard structural model advocated  by many presentation coaches.  And with good reason.  It’s a powerful framework, incredibly sturdy.  Think of it as a reliable vessel into which to pour your superb beverage.

With the rule of three, you can – literally – never err with regard to your presentation structure.

Here’s an Example . . .

Offer substantiation for your thesis and ultimate recommendation in three main points.

Strip down all of your convoluted arguments, all of your evidence, all of your keen analysis to the three major points that you believe make your case.

In the Toughbolt Corporation example above, note that in our thesis statement and ultimate recommendation, we mentioned three positive reasons for our chosen course of action:  “ . . . this presentation demonstrates that this course of action is fiscally sound, the best use of scarce resources among the alternatives, and a basis for rapid growth.”  These three factors serve as your basic Rule of Three structure for the middle of your presentation.

  1. Most efficient use of resources over other expansion alternatives
  2. Financial Analysis of the projected acquisition
  3. Projected returns and growth rate

Does this mean that other information is not important?  Of course not.

It means that you have selected the most important points that make your case and that you want to rivet in the minds of the audience.  The Rule of Three in presentations means that you select the major facts not to be “comprehensive” in your presentation, but to be persuasive in your presentation.

With respect to subsidiary points that appear in your written analysis, you have the opportunity to address those issues in a question and answer session to follow your show.

Follow the Rule of Three.

For more proven techniques like the Rule of Three in presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Case Competition Guide for Presentation Victory

Your Case competition Guide, the source of competitive advantage
This case competition guide can prepare you to win your next business case competition long before you even know the case . . .

The key to doing well in case competitions is to differentiate yourselves beforehand by following you case competition guide, before you ever travel to the site of the competition.

Before they ever give you the sealed envelope with your business case enclosed.

This is much easier than you might imagine, and you begin by consulting your case competition guide.

The Three Ps of Business Presentations provide a roadmap to ready you for your competition.

Principles . . . Preparation . . . Practice

Principles.

You don’t start tuning your instrument for the first time when it’s time to perform a concert, and likewise, you don’t begin honing your presentation skills when it’s time to present.  By the time of your competition, all of your team members ought to be thoroughly grounded in the principles of especially powerful presentations.

The principles offered here in this case competition guide.

This part of your competition prep should already be accomplished, with only a few review sessions to ensure everyone is sharp on the Seven Secrets:  Stance . . . Voice . . . Gesture . . . Expression . . . Movement . . . Appearance . . . Passion.

Second, Preparation

Our case competition guide divides the preparation for the competition into three phases.

Phase 1:  Lead-in to the Competition

You are made aware of the competition’s rules.  You acknowledge and embrace the rules and what they imply.  Your entire team should become intimately familiar with the parameters of the competition – think metaphorically and spacially.

Recognize that the problem has length and breadth and depth.  Understand the finite limits of the context presented to you, what you can and cannot do.  Think of it as an empty decanter that you fill with your analysis and conclusions on the day of the competition.

Later, upon receiving the actual Case, you will conduct the same process – recognize that the Case Problem has length and breadth and depth.

But now, prior to the competition, take stock of what you already know you must do . . . and then do most of it beforehand as the rules permit.

This includes embracing the problem situation long before you arrive on-site for a competition and before you receive the case in question.  Learn the parameters of the context in which you will operate.  The case competition guide breaks the competition environment into discrete elements:

Competition rules

Length of presentation

Total time available (set-up, presenting, Q&A, Close-out)

Number of presenters allowed or required

Visuals permitted or required

Sources you may use, both beforehand and during the problem-solving phase

Prohibitions

You know that you will be required to provide analysis of a case and your results and recommendations.  Why not prepare all that you can before you arrive at the competition?

Some competitions may frown on this or forbid it . . . fine, then do it when you can, at the first point that it is permissible.  This way, you can spend the majority of your case analysis time filling in the content.

Follow the Case Competition Guide

Prepare your slide template beforehand according to the principles expounded here.

Business presentations have a small universe of scenarios and limited number of elements that comprise those scenarios.  A well-prepared team that is composed of team members from different functional areas will have generic familiarity with virtually any case assigned in a competition.  The team should have no problems dealing with any case it is presented.

Determine beforehand who will handle – generally – the presentation tasks on your team as well as the analytical portions of your case.  The following is offered as an example of how the task might be approached:

Your Case competition Guide
Your Case competition Guide suggests that you distribute your tasks long before the competition . . . your business presentation will be the better for it

As part of this initial process, prepare your slide template with suitable logos, background, killer graphics, and charts and graphs requiring only that the numbers be filled in.

Leading into the competition, it’s essential that your team be familiar with sources of data that you may be permitted to utilize in conducting your case analysis – market research, industry surveys, and such like.  Familiarity with online databases like Business Source Premier, Mergent Online, and S&P NetAdvantage is necessary since not all schools may have access to the data sources you use most often.

No Place for the Unprepared

With respect to the delivery or your presentation itself, a case competition is neither time nor place for you to polish your delivery skills.  You should have honed them to razor’s edge by now.  As well, your orchestration as a team should be perfected before arriving at the site of the competition.

At the competition, you lift your performance to the next level in terms of application of all the principles, precepts, and hard skills you have applied in business school – finance, accounting, marketing, operations, strategy, analysis – and you apply them in a tightly orchestrated and professional presentation that pops.

If you have engaged the case competition guide successfully during the lead-up to the competition, then your taut case-cracking team will be ready when you are finally issued the case.  A team ready to address the issues involved in the case problem.

Coming up . . . Phase 2

 Access all of the secrets of masterful business presenting by consulting your business case competition guide:  The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.