Your Presentation: setting it up

Good presentations are clear, relevant, structured and provide the audience with a takeaway message


YOU have probably seen a presentation at school, university or at work that you would describe as “less than successful”.

The presentation was probably unsuccessful because it failed to meet your expectations.

You may have found yourself asking one of the following questions:

  1. What is this presentation about?
  2. How is this presentation relevant to me, my organisation or my industry?
  3. I can’t follow, where is this presentation going? What are the main points?
  4. I’m giving an hour of my time, how does this presentation benefit me? Why do I care?

Setting up your presentation is important because it will help you take control of the presentation right from the start by managing the expectations of your audience and answering their unspoken questions.

The presentation set up has four main parts:

1. What

What are you talking about?  You should make it clear for the audience what subject or topic area the presentation will cover.

2. Why

Why is the presentation relevant to your audience? Put the presentation in the context of recent events or impending events. For example: “you will be able to use the skills you learn in this presentation on the MECE Framework in your next presentation, client meeting or research report.”

3. How

How will the presentation be structured?  Provide a structure for your talk.  Do you have three main points – what are they?  Will you allow questions during the presentation or should people wait until the end?

4. Outcome

What will your audience take away with them at the end of the presentation that they didn’t have at the beginning? Outline what your audience will get out of the presentation. What will they know? How will they feel? What will they do?  For example: “when you walk away from this room, you will be able to structure your thoughts more logically.  Structured thinking will help you give clients clear explanations so that they can easily understand and engage in the consulting process. Being easy to understand is client friendly and will make you a more valuable consultant.”

[For more information on consulting concepts and frameworks, please download “The Little Blue Consulting Handbook“.]

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4 Replies to “Your Presentation: setting it up”

  1. Great post, Tom.

    I have sat through many presentations from undergraduates that have left me very confused. The logical structure, and setting sign-posts is definitely something that I find important in terms of effectively engaging with and reflecting upon presented material. The good old ‘KISS’ principle is a good mantra to follow I find – ‘keep it simple for the stupid’.

    Although this is probably a given, don’t underestimate the preparation and background research required to deliver an effective presentation. The more familiar and comfortable with the subject matter, the more seamless and natural the presentation will be.

  2. Good comment robocat.

    Although, I would suggest that the KISS principle should be used not just for the benefit of the “stupid” people. I think everyone has trouble following a badly structured or overly complicated presentation.

  3. Hi Tom,

    I was beyond thrilled to see your name on my blog and honestly my first reaction was: oh wow is this THE Tom Spencer? Thank you so much for stopping by and I love your blog too! Your words have been such an inspiration to many of us.


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