Preparation – Magic Key #2 for presentation success

Preparation — A successful presentation involves preparation of your core message and its supporting elements.  Even if you know a subject well, your investment in preparation will pay off by having your core message remembered more easily. Just as a jeweler polishes a stone to make it brilliant, preparation helps polish your presentation.  Here are three phases of presentation preparation.

  • Define your message – Make it simple and clear
  • Frame your message – Provide a story structure
  • Refine your message – Edit and use only the essential elements

1) Define your message – Make it 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 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 also have a decisive conclusion in mind.  Know what you want your audience to do with the your information.

Here are some examples of clear messages and desired outcomes…

  • Stocks are devalued. 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.  Structures place limits on the speaker, but it’s these limits that help to create an efficient 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, at the end our your presentation, your audience should be given an action to accomplish, some application for your information. 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
In the final phase you’ll take out the weakest elements. 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 items that don’t fully support your core message.   You want to have the fewest elements that give the strongest support to your main message.

Very few masterpieces are created in the first draft.  Every great writer gets edited.  All diamonds were once chunks of coal.  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 – Make it 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.  Apply 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?  Leave a comment about your preparation experiences and suggestions.

“Preparation” is the second part of Charles’ “Three Magic Keys to Successful Presentations.”  The first in “Audience.” In an upcoming post, Charles will discuss 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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