Preparation – Magic Key #2

Preparation — A successful presentation involves preparation.  Even if you know a subject well, spending a little time and thoughtfully planning the structure and elements will ensure that your audience will hear and remember your message. Just as a jeweler polishes a stone to make it brilliant, preparation helps polish your presentation so that you shine.  In this posting, you’ll learn three elements of preparing your presentation:

  • Know your message – Be simple and clear
  • Frame your message – Provide a story structure
  • Refine your message – Edit and use only the essential elements

1) Know your message – Be simple and clear
Have you ever listened to speaker and, at the conclusion, realized you didn’t know the point of the presentation?  Maybe there wasn’t one.  Maybe there was one, but it wasn’t clearly stated.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Make sure that you clearly understand your message and can convey it in a simple and clear statement.  Sum up your presentation in one sentence.  This clear statement will guide you as you select an appropriate framework for your message.

Your conclusion is as essential as your entire message.   As you start to prepare your presentation, you should have a decisive conclusion in mind.  Know what you want your audience to do with the information they’ll hear.

Here are some examples of clear messages and desired outcomes…

  • Stocks are devalued and now is a great time to invest.  Buy stock.
  • An electric car will save you money and help the environment.  Buy an electric car. 
  • Paris has many wonderful things to experience.  Visit Paris. 
  • Montessori is a superior method of education.  Enroll your child in a Montessori school. 

Once you have established a clear message and a desired outcome you can move onto the next phase.

2) Frame your message – Provide a story structure
Presentations should contain the basic elements of story structure with a beginning, middle and a conclusive end.  This familiar three part format will ensure that your message stays on track.

One time tested structure that works is the “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you’ve just told them” format.  Structure places certain limits on the speaker, but it is precisely those limits that help to create an efficient and focused presentation.  This format forces the presenter to know what message points to present.  Another reason why this structure works so well is that it relies heavily on repetition.  People generally give greater importance to something that is repeated.  This repetition aids in making the message points more memorable.

Although classic and familiar, the above framing structure is far from the only viable one.  Other story framing structures for presentations include: “What is” Vs. “What could be.”  (Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”); Love story (Corporate merger of former rival companies – ATT & T-Mobile); Journey/Odyssey (Facebook); Rags to riches – (Apple/Lady Gaga/Starbucks)

Regardless of what structure you chose, the audience should be transformed at the conclusion of your presentation.  They should be in a different mind set than they were at the beginning of the presentation.  At the end of your presentation, your audience should possess the vision and information to be in a different place.  They should know why taking action is important.  They should also understand the risk of not acting upon the information they heard.  Regardless of whether or not they act upon what they hear, they will have been given the option to enter into a new state of being – having a better retirement plan, a more fuel efficient car, or savoring the pleasures of April in Paris.

3) Refine your message – Edit and use only the essential elements
Remove the deadwood.  Take out the weakest links.  Your presentation will improve through review and rehearsal.   Items that appear perfect in the layout of the presentation don’t always work when spoken aloud or in relation to the other elements.  Take them out.

After setting your message and choosing an appropriate structure, you will add stories, quotes, data, charts, etc. to flesh out your message.  Before your presentation becomes a Frankenstein’s monster, your job, perhaps your toughest job, is to remove the deadwood – those items that don’t fully support your message.   You want to have the fewest and the strongest elements to support your main message.

Consider works of art made from marble.  They all start off as blocks of stone.  A sculptor has the talent to envision the artwork within stone and then remove all of the stone that is not art.,  As a presenter you must remove all superfluous words, numbers and images from your presentation to leave only the essential message.  Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Very few artists create a masterpiece on their first attempt.  Every great writer gets edited.  All diamonds were once chunks of rock.  Like sculpture, novels, and diamonds, presentations are best after they’ve been honed, polished, and refined.

You’ve just learned the three elements needed to properly prepare your presentation:

  • Know your message – Be simple and clear
  • Frame your message – Provide a story structure
  • Refine your message – Edit and use only the essential elements

By the way, this posting was written in the structure of “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you’ve just told them” format.

Summary: These three elements will help you deliver a clear and memorable presentation message.  Use these three elements and your next presentation will be a work of art.


Let me know your thoughts.  What methods have you used to prepare your presentations?

“Preparation” is the second part of Charles’ “Three Magic Keys to Successful Presentations.”  In an upcoming post, Charles will be discussing the last “magic key,” practice.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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About Charles Greene III

Charles Greene III is a true Presentation Magician. Working with Fortune 500 companies, he’s a magical spokesperson who delivers product and marketing messages at conferences around the globe. Through his company Corporate Shuffle, Charles has presented at meetings in Bermuda, China, Egypt, France, Mexico, Monaco, Sweden, and, of course, the United States. His clients span a variety of industries and include 3M, Alcon, Coca-Cola, Clorox, Frito-Lay, Johnson & Johnson, Panasonic, and Wells Fargo. Charles’ public speaking and presentation workshops are engaging, educational, and empowering. With more than 25 years of experience as an international corporate spokesperson, Charles leads by example. He captivates attention as he delivers critical presentation skills. His workshops cover the core skills of public speaking as well as presentation techniques learned from decades of corporate presenting. Charles is a guest columnist for Presentation Magazine. He’s been featured in Discover, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Robb Report. When not for revealing the secrets of better public speaking, Charles spends time collecting vintage magic posters, stone lithographs of magicians from 1890 – 1930. To see some of his collection, visit He can also make a mean gumbo. Charles was born in Hackensack, NJ. He currently lives in the historic Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.
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