Read time: 4½ min. Video play time: 8 min. Welcome to this 3-part edition of the BreezeBlog. It's in video format for your viewing pleasure, or you can find the actual written transcript below. Either way, enjoy!

How Can the Hogwarts Express Make Designing Your Presentation Easier? Part 1

Designing a Presentation Can Make You Feel Overwhelmed

Have you ever sat down to put together a presentation and realized you felt a little lost and overwhelmed? I know I have. I remember when I first started developing presentations, a lot of the times I would feel lost on where to even begin. Even if I already had a lot of information or research, the task of designing a presentation with that information seemed a little daunting. I’m not talking about designing the actual presentation slides here; I cover that in my upcoming book: Power in your Point. What I’m talking about in this article is the overall design, the outline, the structure of the presentation which must come first. I had a colleague once tell me that I was being a perfectionist about creating an outline for my presentation, but the fact of the matter is that…

How You Structure Your Presentation Matters

If your presentation is organized in a logical way and includes all the key components, it will be a success. If it is disorganized, or misses some of those key elements, it will fizzle. It won’t make the positive impact you want. And knowing that it matters only makes for more stress, which can make the whole process of preparing and even delivering a presentation an unpleasant experience.

What You Want is An Easier Way

So, if you’re like me, what you want is an easy way to remember how to structure a presentation and make sure it’s effective. So when you have a presentation to put together you have kind of a "template" in your head that can help you save time and avoid some frustration. That’s what I was looking for, anyway. Then I remembered what one of my college professors did in his writing class that really helped make things easier. He gave us a template which helped us make sure all the elements of a good essay or story were not only present, but were in an effective order. He also used an analogy that helped us remember the structure.

This simple analogy can make things easier AND more effective! I love analogies, they simplify things, and make things easier to remember. When I started applying the concept to my presentations, they became much easier and less stressful to put together, and they were much more effective. So this simple analogy we're going to use is that your presentation is like a Story Train. I think you’re going to really love this. By the end of this article, you’re going to feel much more confident in preparing a presentation. The analogy may seem a little grade school, but if you think of it this way, it can really help you.

Three Parts

There are three main parts we’ll discuss: the Engine, the Cars, and the Caboose. Obviously, this relates to a beginning, middle and end which every story needs. Now you might have already learned that it’s good to use a story format for a presentation, and it’s great because we’re all good at getting meaning from stories. And using the story format helps make sure you have the important elements to a good presentation. But I like adding to that the analogy of the story train, because it adds emphasis to an important part of the story that we sometimes spend too little time on. That’s why we’ll spend most of our time on that part of the train today. So what part is that?

The Engine: the powerhouse that drives them to their destination.

Obviously, the engine represents the introduction to your presentation, and your introduction needs to be more than a title slide, an agenda, and directions to the restroom. An effective engine-

  • Gets them on the train
  • Prepares them for the journey
  • Pulls them to their destination

To do all that, it has to include certain important things. We talked about the value of using a story format, and every story has 5 key elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution. When you include them briefly at the beginning of your presentation, your engine, it helps because it answers those questions that we all have in the back of our minds at the beginning of any book, movie, or presentation.

Journalists do it. They’re the answers to the questions all journalists know to answer: the 5 W’s + H. Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. When we clue the audience in to the answers to these questions it helps engage them. It’s how newspaper headlines get you to read the story, it’s how movie previews get you into the theater. And it’s a vital function of the engine of your Story Train. When it comes to presentations, the answers to some of these questions seem pretty obvious, so we don’t think about them too much. A lot of times the answers to who, what, where, and when naturally end up in the title and introduction. And the “how” can be previewed in the agenda if you have one, and you should. But what I’ve seen many presentations miss is the most important of all the questions to answer!

The WHY! It’s THE question that builds up enough power and steam in your engine to really pull the train. Now, I’m not talking about why you’re giving the presentation. I’m talking about the main question your audience always has, we all have it, at the beginning of a presentation. It’s “Why should I pay attention to this presentation?” Many times, we forget to really answer this question effectively, but it’s vital to a presentation if we want them to pay attention.

Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, says: "There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything…And that is by making them want to do it.” And that’s what answering this why question effectively does.

A Simple Formula. The good news is that the answer you need to provide to their “Why” question, is really an easy formula. Every advertiser and every effective salesperson knows exactly how to answer this question to motivate someone to listen by using this simple formula. So easy, but you’ll think it’s genius! The formula is simply:  Pain + “your Product (presentation)” = Pleasure It’s that simple. We’re all motivated by the pain/pleasure principle, by moving away from pain and toward pleasure. So, this is where you make sure in your Engine, the beginning of your presentation, to-

  • Talk about the pain, challenge, struggle…that your audience is experiencing
  • Show them the pleasure they want, the solution, their desired destination
  • Then preview how your presentation will get them there

Watch any infomercial and you’ll see this in action. It Works.

Invest the effort. So, you’ll want to put enough effort into the engine of your Story Train and make sure you preview the answers to those questions, make the audience curious, and answer that important “why” question. Do this effectively and you create the power you need to get the audience interested in actually boarding your train cars, physically AND mentally, and begin the journey with you.

And once they do board the train cars, what two things will they find that will keep them on board and enjoying the ride? We’ll answer that question in Part Two!

Cheers for now, Nick

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