Master Your Message Blog

Top Ten Forms Your Persuasive Presentation Might Take

The body of your presentation is where you organize your content. This is where you unveil the key points that support your main theme, or objective.

Once you’ve identified the key points , it’s time to think about the most effective way to communicate them. What “form” are you going to use?

When we talk about “form,” we mean the order in which you present your points and how you “package” them. For example, you might decide to make your points within a story, or perhaps they should be introduced chronologically – based on the date or day they relate to – or maybe by geographic location. In any case, there are ten major forms you can choose from. In this article, we’ll try to describe each one of them and how to use them.

1.  Linear (Problem/solution).

This is the basic presentation structure. The body contains a series of key points, each built into its own “block.” They are interchangeable, but be careful to think about what order you’re going to present them in. Does the understanding or adoption of any point depend on the knowledge or acceptance of another?

2.  Chronological.

Organizes clusters of ideas along a timeline, reflecting events in the order in which they occurred or might occur. So, if the points you want to make were a result of (or relate to) a series of events, or if they are a set of procedures that must take place in a particular order by time or date, you may want to present them in that order.

Picture of bridge for bridge analogy

An example of a spatial form in this case, uses the analogy of a bridge.

3. Physical.

Organizes key points according to their physical or geographic location. You might be presenting a design plan for a house, for example, and decide to treat each room as a separate point, the order based upon it’s physical location.

4.  Spatial.

Organizes ideas conceptually, according to a physical metaphor or analogy, providing a spatial arrangement of your topics. This one may need a visual method of presenting the information when you perform your talk.

Let’s say you were trying to explain how to organize a linear presentation to a friend. You decide to use the analogy of a “bridge.” With a bridge, you have an “on ramp” (the opening) and an “off ramp” (the close). The middle of the bridge has a series of sections – each one represents a major point. You might want to relate the underlying structure to the evidence that supports each key point.

5. Spoke and Wheel.

Picture of spoke and wheel for spoke and wheel analogy.

Organizes the presentation around a single central business concept, method, or technology, with multiple applications or functions emanating from that central core.

The diagram of the wagon wheel helps visualize the form this presentation might take. Your unique solution would occupy the centre of the wheel. Then you could cover off each point one by one. If you use a diagram (which I highly recommend), you should cover each point (in order) in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, so the information is as clear as possible. However, don’t force it if isn’t logical to follow that order.

6. Case Study/Story.

A narrative recounting of how you or your company solved a particular problem or met the needs of a particular client, and in the telling, covers all the aspects of your business and its environment.

7. Argument/Fallacy.

Raises arguments against your own case, and then rebuts them by pointing out the fallacies (or false beliefs) that underlie them.

8. Compare/Contrast.

Organizes the presentation around a series of comparisons that illustrate the differences between your company and other companies, for example.

9. Matrix.

Uses a two-by-two or larger diagram to organize a complex set of concepts into an easy-to-digest, easy-to-follow, and easy-to-remember form.

10. Parallel Tracks.

This form also needs a diagram. The best way to describe this is two columns, each with a set of points linked to a related point in the adjacent column. Each point may have sub-points. In any case, there should be the same number of points in each column. You can either run through each point and its counterpart from top to bottom, or you can start with the left column and introduce each of the points and then go back and relate each to the corresponding one in the right column.

Paying attention to the form you use can have a powerful effect on how your audience perceives your message and how receptive they are. An interesting and creative structure that serves to reinforce your main message is key to being remembered long after the event.

Any forms you use that I haven’t mentioned?

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