PowerPoint Presentation Structure (Part One)

Remember our infographic on PowerPoint presentation structure? It seemed to strike a chord, so we’ve decided to run a series of posts, covering each section in greater detail. Part One - 'Awaken Interest' - offers advice on how to avoid some of the introductory pitfalls common to poor business presentations. It states what you should instead be doing to ensure that your audience is hooked and eager to learn more about you and your presentation sales message.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it good. How many sales presentations have you witnessed where the speaker begins by bumbling? Worse still are those presenters who walk on stage, casually tap their microphone a couple of times before asking “Can everybody hear me?” This sort of buffoonery only ever serves to unsettle an audience. 

Point number one: if you’re delivering a microphone presentation, the chances are there’ll be an audio team or at least an audio person. Check it out with them beforehand, make sure the sound system works. Don’t bother your audience with it, squandering your sole chance to appear interesting and worthy of attention.

Point number two: What is the preferred response to an opening remark of that sort? There is some pressure for the audience to reply in some way, but how? Are you supposed to respond audibly? Nod or shake your head, respectively? For the most part an audience will simply look around aimlessly to see how others are responding. This kind of pathetic dithery is easy to avoid, so there’s really no excuse.

Your opening statement should resemble the opening few paragraphs of a good novel. It doesn't have to be long, 200 words or so should be enough to hook the audience. Why not commit this section of your presentation to memory? After all, you should consider your sales presentation to be a performance. And any professional performer worth their salt would learn their lines.

Furthermore, if your opening gambit is safely secured to memory, you become free to concentrate on enhancing the performance of your piece. That is, properly projecting your voice, making good eye contact and so on.

Finally, let’s be clear, running through the agenda will awaken the interest of nobody. The agenda should be your enemy as a presenter. It is boring. Would you read aloud the contents page of a book? No.

Fair enough, in days gone by, a sales presentation had to educate the audience somewhat. Now we have Google. The audience knows who you are. And if they don’t, frankly, they can catch up later. Who honestly wants to watch a presenter rattle through introductory several slides detailing the weight and worth of their company?

The trick to being both interesting and memorable as a business presenter is to deliver a presentation sales message that demonstrates clear customer benefits. We’ll cover how you achieve this in the next post of this structure series.

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