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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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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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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Seth Godin PowerPoint tips

by Nobo Blog Team 29 Oct 2010

Yesterday’s video post on Seth Godin and his remarkable presentation style has generated loads of hits – you can see it here. So here’s some more from Seth, this time on how to use PowerPoint.

You can read his excellent blog at

Perhaps you’ve experienced it. You do a presentation and it works. It works! That’s the reason we keep coming back for more, that’s why so many of us spend more time building and giving presentations than almost anything else we do.

Here are some steps to achieve this level of PPT nirvana (Your mileage may vary. These are steps, not rules):

  1. Don’t use Powerpoint at all. Most of the time, it’s not necessary. It’s underkill. Powerpoint distracts you from what you really need to do… look people in the eye, tell a story, tell the truth. Do it in your own words, without artifice and with clarity. There are times Powerpoint is helpful, but choose them carefully.
  2. Use your own font. Go visit Smashing Magazine and buy a font from one of their sponsors or get one of the free ones they offer. Have your tech guy teach you how to install it and then use it instead of the basic fonts built in to your computer. This is like dressing better or having a nicer business card. It’s subtle, but it works.
  3. Tell the truth. By this I don’t mean, “don’t lie,” (that’s a given), I mean “don’t hide.” Be extremely direct in why you are here, what you’re going to sell me (you’re here to sell me something, right? If not, please don’t waste your time or mine). It might be an idea, or a budget, but it’s still selling. If, at the end, I don’t know what you’re selling, you’ve failed.
  4. Pay by the word. Here’s the deal: You should have to put $5 into the coffee fund for every single word on the wordiest slide in your deck. 400 words costs $2000. If that were true, would you use fewer words? A lot fewer? I’ve said this before, but I need to try again: words belong in memos. Powerpoint is for ideas. If you have bullets, please, please, please only use one word in each bullet. Two if you have to. Three never.
  5. Get a remote. I always use one. Mine went missing a couple of weeks ago, so I had to present without it. I saw myself on video and hated the fact that I lost all that eye contact. It’s money well spent.
  6. Use a microphone. If you are presenting to more than twenty people, a clip on microphone changes your posture and your impact. And if you’re presenting to more than 300 people, use iMag. This is a setup with a camera and projector that puts your face on the screen. You should have a second screen for your slides–the switching back and forth is an incompetent producer’s hack that saves a few bucks but is completely and totally not worth it. If 400 people are willing to spend an hour listening to you, someone ought to be willing to spend a few dollars to make the presentation work properly.
  7. Check to make sure you brought your big idea with you. It’s not worth doing a presentation for a small idea, or for a budget, or to give a quarterly update. That’s what memos are for. Presentations involve putting on a show, standing up and performing. So, what’s your big idea? Is it big enough? Really?
  8. Too breathtaking to take notes. If people are liveblogging, twittering or writing down what you’re saying, I wonder if your presentation is everything it could be. After all, you could have saved everyone the trouble and just blogged it/note-taken it for them, right? We’ve been trained since youth to replace paying attention with taking notes. That’s a shame. Your actions should demand attention (hint: bullets demand note-taking. The minute you put bullets on the screen, you are announcing, “write this down, but don’t really pay attention now.”) People don’t take notes when they go to the opera.
  9. Short! Do you really need an hour for the presentation? Twenty minutes? Most of the time, the right answer is, “ten.” Ten minutes of breathtaking big ideas with big pictures and big type and few words and scary thoughts and startling insights. And then, and then, spend the rest of your time just talking to me. Interacting. Answering questions. Leading a discussion.

Most presentations (and I’ve seen a lot) are absolutely horrible. They’re not horrible because they weren’t designed by a professional, they’re horrible because they are delivered by someone who is hiding what they came to say. The new trend of tweaking your slides with expensive graphic design doesn’t solve this problem, it makes it worse. Give me an earnest amateur any day, please.

Anyway ditch powerpoint and use a flipchart see the new Nobo Kapture flip chart and send your flipchart ideas straight to your PC or laptop.

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Presenter Seth Godin on how to get noticed

by Nobo Blog Team 28 Oct 2010

Seth Godin is one of the world’s great presenters.

He’s also a beanpole American with a nasal, rather annoying voice.

So what makes him so brilliant? This video shows you. And it’s a funny and informative way to spend a few minutes.

How does he do it? Here are some of his methods…

  • His approach is to make you laugh and think at the same time
  • His slides aren’t the best-looking – but they get the message across perfectly
  • He uses a lot of open-palmed gestures. When he uses the word ‘listen’, he points to his ear. ‘Think’ and he points to his head. There’s a lot of movement and activity
  • He continually surprises, both with what he says, and with what he does. For example, there’s no music for most of the presentation – then it suddenly starts blaring out. He doesn’t use props – until he suddenly does
  • To get his points across, he tells stories about people doing remarkable things

If you have time, watch the full 17 minutes: it’s all about how to get noticed by being remarkable, and we all want to be noticed. But even if you watch only a minute, you’ll pick up powerful presentation tips that you can use again and again.

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The novel that's written in PowerPoint

by Nobo Blog Team 21 Oct 2010

Author Jennifer Egan has published a book called A Visit From The Goon Squad… and one of the chapters is written in PowerPoint.

It’s an interesting and nicely weird idea. After all, who made the rule that books have to be written in a ‘he said, she said’ format? Using clunky PowerPoint slides is a new and different way to get her story across.

You can read the chapter, Great Rock and Roll Pauses, here. But it made me think about presentation styles. Who made the rule that you always have to present from the front of the room, next to your visual aid? Why not try something different for a change?

Maybe try walking around or through your audience… or having a co-presenter at the back of the room…

Or do something quirky. Pull a hamster from your pocket and address some comments to it.

U2′s Bono is famous for calling the White House on a mobile phone during gigs. It’s live, unexpected and helps to make the concert different and memorable.

You want your presentation to be memorable. So you don’t always have to follow the rules. Try something new – and your audience will thank you for it. After all, the last thing they want is to sit through an hour of tedium.

If you’re presenting, you’re in show business. Entertain!

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How to present like Apple's Steve Jobs

by Nobo Blog Team 18 Oct 2010

Apple boss Steve Jobs is widely held to be one the best presenters around. It helps, of course, that he has interesting things to say (after all, an iPhone is a lovely piece of kit – watch him launching the iPhone 4 here). And it also helps that he has the might of Apple behind him when it comes to slick visuals – you don’t get the impression he was up til 4 a.m. wrestling with his PowerPoint slides.

So, how does he do it?

Businessweek magazine got communications coach Carmine Gallo to analyse a Steve Jobs presentation. The result is a ten-point guide called, unsurprisingly, Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs. You can use the framework to wow your own audience.

It isn’t rocket science. Demonstrate enthusiasm. Don’t put too much on your slides. Make numbers meaningful. But what comes across most of all is that Jobs really, really believes in what he’s saying. He isn’t flashy; he’s certainly no Barack Obama or Winston Churchill when it comes to language. But you can tell that he’s sincerely proud of what his team has achieved, and he genuinely wants to tell people about it. He may be a great salesperson, but you can’t fake that sort of enthusiasm.

Hope these tips help you with your next presentation.

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