How to structure a presentation: begin with the end

by Nobo Blog Team 20 Dec 2010

How should you structure your presentation? In the newspaper business, they teach you to put the least important stuff at the end, so when your story gets cut for length the reader won’t miss much. But when you’re planning a presentation, it helps to start with the end.

There are two ways to do it.

The first is to ask yourself what results you want from the presentation. Is it sales? Understanding? Recruits? To convince them to look at things your way? Whatever you want them to do, that’s where you need to start.

Without a clear outcome in mind, there’s no way your presentation will come out clear.

The second is to state your conclusion at the beginning of your presentation. First impressions last longest. If you don’t say the one thing you need to say right up front, it may never get heard.

Starting with your conclusion also tells the audience you won’t waste their time with preliminaries.

That means your presentation structure should look something like this:

  1. Conclusion — your main point, in the fewest possible words.
  2. Background — research, definitions, history and other information to serve as groundwork for the story you’re telling
  3. Body — justifications, arguments, product and developments, and anything that shows how you’re dealing with real problems
  4. Conclusion — repeat the main point
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How to handle a hostile audience

by Nobo Blog Team 8 Dec 2010

Sweaty palms… damp armpits… heart fluttering… You’re about to tell your audience something they don’t want to hear. So what’s the best way to do it? Here’s a checklist.

1. Get some perspective. Politicians spend their days arguing with people with opposing views. In front of the cameras or in the debating chamber, they have to be seen as rottweillers – yet in the bar afterwards, they often respect and like each other. Yes, your audience may heckle you. You may get booed. But it’s your messagethey might dislike: it’s not you personally. Keep this in mind, and you have an enormous psychological advantage. You’re a good person delivering an unpopular message.

2. Prepare. You’ll almost always know in advance whether your audience is likely to be hostile. So,before you present, make sure you’ve analysed your audience . You can do a lot to minimise and even prevent adverse audience reaction by anticipating how your listeners are likely to react to what you say. Put yourself in their shoes.

Let’s imagine you have to tel

l a group at work that their departmental budget is to be cut by ten per cent. If you’re the manager and the decision was your

s, you’d better have all the reasons for your decision at your fingertips. If you’re speaking on behalf of the board, it’s even more important to understand – and believe – the reasons for the decision. So take time to marshall all the facts. Write them down. Discuss them with a colleague – or with yourself, out loud. Do you believe what you’re going to say? Can you justify the decision?

As you prepare, focus on every issue that could trigger negative emotions. Anticipate every negative that may come up, acknowledge it, and place it in a context of your choosing as you build your presentation. That way, you’re framing each issue yourself and proactively responding to it in a way that helps to achieve your objec


3. Tell the story as positively as you honestly can. There are sound reasons why the budget is being cut, so make them clear. And, crucially, use comparisons to show how things could be a lot worse. For example…

“Three years ago, this compa

ny was growing at 30 per cent a year. Then came the banking crash. Suddenly, customers could no longer afford to buy our products. Everyone in this room has seen what’s happened to Marketing: they’ve lost some good people. I’m determined to lose no-one from this department. But, in order to pay our salaries, we need to cut back other areas. That’s why, from today, we’re no longer authorising business class travel. We’ll review this in six months.”

You’ve successsfully contextualised the situation. After all, what’s worse: losing your job, or losing a seat with more legroom? And you’ve hinted that the cut will only be temporary.

4. Some issues can’t be waved away. If you know they’re going to come up, attack them head on. That way, you can present them in a manner that will help defus

e the situation. What’s more, by addressing sensitive issues as part of your overall remarks, you’ll at least show you’re alert to the concerns of your listeners.

At the same time, don’t go overboard when anticipating a negative response. Go with your audience knowledge and your instincts in judging what issues to raise and address in your presentation, and what to leave out. You certainly don’t want to raise an issue that wasn’t on anyone’s mind in the first place.

5. Be aware of your body language. A frequently cited study, conducted by UCLA’s Professor Albert Mehrabian, found that we get most of our information through nonverbal communication. The language your body speaks is more reliable and telling than anything your words say. Therefore, whenever you find yourself speaking to an audience, you should know that the nonverbal signals you’re sending give them a much clearer idea of what the

true meaning of your message is. That’s why, if you have doubts about the credibility of your information or you’re not sure if the position you represent will hold up to expert scrutiny, your words and body language will show this. A critically thinking audience will immediately sense this.

We’ve written more about

body language here.  By focusing on your conviction and the value of your message, and maintaining a mental connection with the audience as you look them in the eyes, you’re showing them that you stand by what you say and that you mean it.

6. When the worst comes to the worst… What happens when you’ve prepared thoroughly, but some of your listeners are still not satisfied? How do you deal with those who openly disagree with you or challenge you? Here are some tips:

  • Stay calm at all costs. If you return the fire, you’ll only encourage more negative behavior.
  • Don’t judge your entire audience by the reactions of a few. They may not represent the views of everyone. People who interrupt, loudly disagree, or become combative are likely to offend others in the audience as well.
  • Be sure to address the issue, not the person. Don’t put the individual on the defensive and certainly don’t criticise anyone personally.
  • Look for areas of agreement you can build on. That doesn’t mean you should back down when all your research tells you you’re right. Looking for common ground is not a form of compromise. You can acknowledge the other person’s point of view without agreeing with it.
  • Stay within the immediate discussion. Avoid offering more facts or opinions that could trigger more disagreement.
  • Avoid getting bogged down in an adversarial exchange. Once you’ve covered a topic as thoroughly as you choose to, end the discussion by saying simply that you’ve explained your position, but now it’s time to move on. You can always offer to discuss the issue further after your presentation.
  • Do interrupt when someone with a dissenting view wanders onto another subject or appears about to give a presentation of their own. Make it clear that time is short and that you want to stay focused on the day’s agenda.

It’s a rare audience that won’t give you a fair hearing. But it’s better to be safe than sorry to be trampled by an infuriated mob.

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How body language boosts your presentation

by Nobo Blog Team 1 Dec 2010

Body language says more about what you really think about your presentation than your words do. It has a huge influence on your audience. Here’s how to get it right.

1. Your stance

If you’re nervous, you might feel safer by standing stiffly in one place, taking refuge behind your lectern, slouching, or swaying. You might put your hands on your hips or in your pockets (strangely, young men do this most of all) and look straight ahead while speaking.

Don’t do it! These are big audience turn-offs.

2. Move around while you speak

“Be alive and energetic,” says presenting expert David Vickery. “Don’t sway, don’t slouch, and don’t lean back. If you stand tall and lean forward, you send an unconscious but powerful message to your audience that you’re passionate about your subject, that you’re confident and that you’ve got something to say that’s worth hearing.”

3. Your hands are weapons

Even more than your voice, hands are a speaker’s best weapon. Take a look at TV presenters. Their hands continually drive the points they make, underlining and illustrating them.

4. Shoulders are important

When addressing a large gathering, hands can’t always make big enough gestures – but shoulders can. Gesturing from the shoulder and using your whole arms also helps to relieve any tension or nerves. But don’t overdo it in a small room: you’ll look like a gibbon.

5. Look at people in turn

Your facial expression is vital. Many experts recommend that you should look at different people in turn, engaging each of them with your eyes before pausing slightly and moving on to your next point. The pauses help your message, and give added drama and impact to what you’re saying.

Make sure you don’t ignore any part of the audience. Engage with as many members of it as possible. This will help make them feel connected with you.

6. Above all, smile!

Even in a serious or weighty presentation, you should be able to smile at the start: it’s another good tension reliever. In many presentations, you’ll be able to smile much more. Look as if you’re having fun, and two things will happen: you’ll start enjoying yourself, and so will your audience.

7. Use body language for feedback

Body language works the other way too. In many presentations, nobody in the audience will speak until you get to the end and ask for questions. But their body language provides powerful unspoken feedback.

If everyone’s sitting back or slouching, they’re not paying attention. If they’re looking away or have their eyes closed, that’s even worse. If they’re sitting with their arms folded looking directly at you, you might have offended or annoyed them. (If they’re shaking their fists, you certainly have.) If they’re leaning forward and maintaining eye contact, you’ve made a hit.

Picture credit: Red October

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Why your presentation can cost you the sale

by Nobo Blog Team 30 Nov 2010

Most salespeople get caught in the presentation trap. They spend a huge amount of time preparing for a glitzy presentation, but lose sight of why the customer might want to buy.

The irony is that most of this effort is lost on customers. Presentations that come too early in complex decision-making processes are largely a waste of time, says Jeff Thull, CEO ofPrime Resource Group, a US sales training company.

The solution? Don’t present, he says.

“Conventional salespeople hate to hear this because the presentation is usually the key weapon in their sales arsenal,” explains Thull. “It is their security blanket, their comfort zone, and they loathe giving it up.

A presentation is, in essence, a lecture. The salesperson is the talking teacher and the customer is the listening student.

The big problem with teaching by telling is that little information is remembered. People retain only about 30 per cent of what they hear. The use of visual aids boosts retention rates to 40 per cent, but the accepted rule of thumb among learning experts is that more than half of presentation information gets lost.

What’s more, a typical sales presentation rarely devotes more than 10 to 20 per cent of its focus on the customer and their current situation. Generally, 80 to 90 per cent of a typical sales presentation is devoted to describing the seller, its solutions, and the rosy future if you buy.

Your competitors are following the same strategy and are busy presenting, as well. Unless you have no competition, your customers will surely hear their story, too

Look at this from the customer’s perspective. They’ll forget most of what you said. And what they do remember sounds very much the same as what your competitors are telling them.

To help you avoid falling victim to the Presentation Trap, ask yourself these five critical questions:

1. What percentage of your sales presentation is devoted to describing your company and your solution?

2. What percentage of your proposal is devoted to describing your customer’s business, their problems and objectives?

3. How well do your customers understand their own problems?

4. How much of your presentation is focused on persuading and convincing?

5. How well can your customers connect your solutions to their business situation?

Best of all, stop presenting, says Thull.

Instead, use a diagnostic approach. Conduct a thorough diagnosis to uncover problems and expand the prospect’s awareness of their situation. Once the problem is clearly understood and the customer perceives all the ramifications of that problem, the salesperson can make recommendations, and a presentation will not be necessary.

When you guide your customers through this process, you’ll establish a high level of credibility and jointly develop optimal solutions, which will benefit both you and your customers.


Picture courtesy Oatmeal Group

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Flipchart secrets

by Nobo Blog Team 24 Nov 2010

Here are three brilliant flipchart tips that can have a big impact on your presentation. They’re from presenting guru Sakhita Sharma.

1. Prepare your flipchart pages by writing topics and cues unobtrusively in pencil on the top corners. You can refer to them during the show – but your audience won’t see them and will think all your ideas are coming straight from your head.

2. Hang 20 strips of masking tape on the back of the easel. If you decide to rip off some sheets and stick them to the walls, you have an instant supply of adhesive, so there’s no break in your presentation flow.

3. If you use a digital flipchart, you can print out your presentation and give it to your audience as they leave – or email it to people all over the world in seconds.

Do you have any flipchart secrets? Click the comments button and let everyone know!

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World's fastest PowerPoint presentation

by Nobo Blog Team 22 Nov 2010

How often should you change your PowerPoint slides when presenting?

The obvious answer is, every time you make a new point. But presenter Dick Hardt doesn’t see it that way. Watch this presentation and you’ll be amazed by how quickly the slides change – often more than once every second.

It makes for a very fast-moving, buzzy show. It’s also memorable – because it’s so different. And it’s a lot of fun.

Downside? The preparation time must have been pretty mind-boggling. But if you want to create a memorable presentation, you could certainly try his approach. Just make sure you keep a remote control gripped tightly in your hand… this isn’t a time where you want an assistant messing things up!

We think these are the world’s fastest presentation slides. If you know better, let us know… just hit the comment button.

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How to avoid offending your audience!

by Nobo Blog Team 16 Nov 2010

Inadvertently offending – even enraging - your audience happens more often than many people think. When it happens, it’s hugely embarrassing. Most public speakers have done it once… and they do all they can to avoid it ever again.


Why did she say that?!

In most audiences, there is someone just waiting to be offended. Here’s how to keep the audience on your side.

Know how to pronounce any word connected with the organisation. If you mention someone in the audience, make sure you know how to pronounce their name. The name of the city where you are speaking, the company, and product lines are examples of words whose pronunciation you need to check before you say them.

When President Kennedy was speaking in Berlin in 1963, shortly after the Berlin Wall went up, his efforts to connect with his audience began with, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” He intended to assure the people that he, too, was a citizen of Berlin. Unfortunately, to the locals, a “Berliner” was, primarily, a jam donut.

Resistance is useless. If you know you are going to be discussing an issue that will get resistance from the audience, early in the presentation you should stress areas where you do agree. For example, company profits are important both to the hourly-paid worker and the CEO; but the method of reaching those profits may not seem the same for both. Talk first about profit management.

Be sensitive to themes that the audience may feel very strongly about. If you are speaking in Manchester, for example, you’d do best to avoid taking sides between Manchester United and Manchester City. Wisdom dictates that you avoid jokes about either. As former Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly put it, “Football’s not a matter of life and death … it’s more important than that.” 

If in doubt, don’t say it. Don’t swear, even jokingly. And don’t ridicule an occupation or socio-economic background.

Learn as much as possible about the audience ahead of time so you won’t inadvertently insult them because you’re unaware of a problem they face. There’s no point crowing about a competitor’s problems if your audience knows that their company is also in big trouble.

Don’t apologize for your lack of preparation or depth of content. Audiences will find that out on their own soon enough!

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Disastrous prophecies make great presentation openers

by Nobo Blog Team 9 Nov 2010

Other people’s disastrously-bad predictions make a great start to presentations.

We’ve all heard of Decca Records, which famously rejected The Beatles because  “guitar groups are on the way out.”

And the chairman of IBM who, in 1943, said “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

But few people have been so spectacularly wrong as Clifford Stoll.

In a now hilarious 1995 article for Newsweek, The Internet? Bah!, Stoll maintained that the online world was absurdly overhyped. It was all “baloney”.

“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms,” he wrote. “They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems.

“Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper…

“Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts… Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn’t—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

“What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another…”

And so on.

Stoll’s mistake was to see the internet as it was, not what it could be.

It’s true that, in the dial-up world of 1995, much of the web was pretty clunky. But he neglected to recognise that, if something’s a bit crap, people will always find a way to make it better – and build a business by selling that improvement to others.

I’m sure that, in 15 years, we’ll be using the internet in ways we haven’t yet imagined. And I don’t mean to be rude to Clifford: after all, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

But real-life examples of calamitous prophecies always go down well with any audience (unless they’re professional clairvoyants). You can find lots more examples by clicking here.

And Clifford Stoll? He now sells blown glass bottles… on the web.

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The world's funkiest barcodes

by Nobo Blog Team 3 Nov 2010

For most of us, bar codes are eye-wateringly dull. But they don’t have to be that way.

As these pictures show, you can do anything you like with a barcode, as long as the electronic reader can still recognise it.

You can see loads more examples here.

That got me thinking. Many presentations are to tell people about why something is changing. And most of the time, you want to convince people that it’s a change for the better.

You could use these examples as background slides, and say something like, “We don’t have to do things the traditional, boring way. Like these barcode designers, we’ve taken a fresh look at an old problem – and here’s the result.”

It’s a neat, visual way to get your point across. And it makes it memorable, too.

Don’t forget to credit the Japanese design company, D-Barcode, in the small print at the end of  your presentation. Not only do they deserve the exposure, but they charge $1000s for each image. You don’t want them chasing you for money!

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WHY MDs use Nobo Kapture

by Nobo Blog Team 3 Nov 2010

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got!”

So says Bob Bradley. Bob, right, heads up MD2MD, a UK business group that provides leadership development for managing directors and other senior figures. He’s also an enthusiastic user of the Nobo Kapture digital flipchart.

“What I really liked about the Nobo Kapture was its unobtrusive nature,” he says. 

“During the meeting I was simply writing on a flipchart as normal. Nothing different at all. And had I not mentioned the device to the participants, I’m sure no-one would have noticed.

“Being able to produce a PDF of the flipcharts immediately at the end of the meeting was great.

“We were able to write on the flip chart without thinking about the software monitoring the writing at all… Everyone was most impressed at the way the software recognised when we had used multiple pages.”

Do you have a story about how Nobo Kapture has helped make your life simpler or more productive? Simply add a comment in the box below, underneath the recent posts pictures. We’ll feature the most interesting stories on this site, so it’s a great way to reach presenters from all over world.

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