Putting Meat on the Bones of Your Presentation
You have an idea for a presentation. You want to present a topic, but it seems you only have a skeleton. Just a few bones that seem disjointed and plain.
There is a way to put flesh on those bones and build a presentation that is rich and deep and meaningful. You can add humor and emotion to the idea to fill it out to be the robust and helpful message you dreamed about giving. I’ll show you how in a 4-step process that eliminates bare bones.
Step one. Begin with a memorable outline. Forget about the outlining tools you learned in fourth grade—the ones with the Roman numerals followed by capital letters followed by numbers and then small letters and on and on. The keyword in this step is “memorable.” You need an outline you can remember. I like outlines with one or two words on each point. Helps me remember it while on stage and helps my audience remember it while they are listening. Try rhyming words or alliteration to help you remember. Be sure the outline points are the same part of speech so you can easily state the points without stumbling.
Step two. Find two or three stories to illustrate the point. Use stories rather than examples. What’s the difference? An example tells the point, but a story shows the point with emotion and feeling. A picture of a large crowd is an example, but telling about the crowd by using sensory information, such as the feel of being pushed around or describing the sounds and smells, is fodder for a memorable story. The best way to make a good speech great is to “story it up.” Gather a selection of several stories to make your point. Personal stories are best. If they are humorous, they will help the audience enjoy the presentation. The one main rule about stories is: The story must make the point.
Step three. Find references to give your point authority and power. What does the Bible say about your point? What have famous people said about the point? What statistics or research prove the point? Gather as many sources as you can find to give your message muscle and clout.
Step four. Consider what the audience will “take away” after they’ve heard your point. What about your point benefits the people who will hear you speak? What do you want them to do after they’ve heard you speak? What instructions or actions steps can you list for them to follow?
Most presentations will have several points—usually 2 to 4. Each one of those points should be covered by several stories, references, and instructions. With these, you will have a fully-fleshed out presentation.
When presenting the message, your audience should not be able to see or determine this hidden structure of your message. In other words, you shouldn’t say, “My point is….” Or “My reference is …” Instead present each point in the way that makes most sense for that point.
Some points might start with the story. Other points might start with the instruction or the reference. Practice arranging each point so that it makes the most impact. If you have many stories, or references, or instructions, you can adjust the length of your presentation according to the amount of time you have available. A short timeframe may only have one story and one reference and one instruction for each point. A long timeframe might use all the pieces you have available.
Begin with a powerful opening, which can be a statistic, a story, a quote, a shocking statement, or a piece of drama and close with an ending line that summarizes the main point of the presentation and top the ending off with a story or statement or quote.
It is never a good idea to memorize your presentation because it will seem stiff and perhaps stale. However, you should memorize the opening line and the closing line. Knowing the opening line will help alleviate any stage fright when you begin your message and knowing the exact words of your last time will help you steer your message toward that ending and keep you on track.
A presentation with meat on its bones will inform and inspire your audiences.
Karen Porter is an international retreat and seminar speaker and a successful businesswoman. She is the author of eight books including If You Give a Girl a Giant and Amplify. She and her husband, George, own Bold Vision Books, a traditional Christian publishing company.Karen is a coach of communicators in both writing and speaking and serves on numerous boards of national ministries.