Master Your Message for Maximum Impact

Sharing Your Presentation Map

In Toastmasters, we evaluate EVERYTHING! Whenever anyone gets up to speak, they get evaluated at some point during the meeting. And invariably, more than once a month, there is a suggestion that a speech could be improved upon by the presenter “giving an indication early on as to where he/she was taking us” – the “us” meaning, of course, the audience. Stating the purpose of the talk (the agenda – part of your opening) and keeping the audience on track throughout is one of the most critical elements in your success in reaching your objective and yet the task that is perhaps the most poorly implemented.

With supporting visuals, however, the problem is solved! You can provide your audience with a visual “map” of your presentation. By using some simple graphic techniques, you can keep your audience with you, even draw information from them on how you’re doing and ensure they follow your argument through to its final conclusion.

Example of a agenda slide.

1. The Agenda

The first very powerful thing you can do is to develop an agenda screen. This can either be a short text list of the key topics (or points within your presentation), or you can come up with more creative graphic ways to impart the information. Whether you make it a “build” or not (add the lines of text one at a time) depends to a large extent, on the familiarity of your audience with the information you’re going to present. If you need to give a short explanation of the points you’re going to cover, you may want to build each text line, section or “thought” on the screen as you provide a VERY SHORT explanation – remember, this is the opening of your speech and you just want to give them a sense for what you’re going to cover and what you expect from them.

Keep in mind that it’s critical to use the “Rule of 66” here. Make sure the text on your slide doesn’t exceed six lines of 6 words each. No audience is going to remember any more than that. In fact, they won’t remember even that much. What you’re trying to do is set up logical flow for them so that know what to expect and in what context to absorb what you’re going to tell them. You’re making them “receptive” to the message your about to deliver.

Example of a "header" on a slide.

2. Modular

As far and the rest of your presentation goes, it’s a similar situation. No audience can take in vast amounts of information at one sitting and be expected to remember all of it. You need to provide it in small “bites.” The key to accomplishing this is to break your presentation into smaller sections, each with its own lead-in and summary (a “truth” block in Presenter-Pro) and visually separate each of them from the others.

The agenda slide on the left breaks the rules slightly for words and lines on a screen. Rules are guidelines – break them if you have a good reason.

There are a couple of techniques you can use to help segment your talk:

A. The first method is to put a title screen in at the beginning of a section. In a similar manner, you can also summarize each section with a summary slide – a very simple one – and it should NOT build. You simply want to remind the audience of what you’ve covered and, in some cases, what they’ve just bought in to. However, I don’t recommend using a summary slide unless you’re dealing with complicated material in that particular section. It’s more important, though to have a summary slide as part of your closing.

B. You can also develop “headers” for each section of your presentation. Don’t confuse these with title bars. Each screen should indeed have a title bar to tell the audience what it’s about. A “header,” on the other hand is a word or short phrase that denotes what module of the presentation you’re currently in.

Example of using an icon on a slide.

3. Icons or Visual Markers

Another very subtle means of reinforcing where you are is to develop an icon or other graphic element that uses color or shape to identify where you are. In the following graphic example, the rectangle in the upper left hand corner is made up of four squares. Each section will contain the same rectangle, but a different quadrant will “light up” to reinforce the section.

In the example to the left, a series of circles on the left hand side “count down the sections” and light up appropriately as the presenter guides the audience through the presentation.

When your audience first walks in, they’re typically in the dark about the material you’re going to present. Think of the situation of being in a large underground parking lot. Without direction, someone or something to guide you, chances are pretty good you’re going to get lost, or at the least, confused about where your car is. Your job as a presenter, is to guide your audience to your conclusion in the most logical and direct manner.

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