June 8, 2014 12:01 AM EDT

Many books have tactics for giving a good presentation but few establish a reliable structure that works every time.

In The New Articulate Executive: Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader Granville Toogood lays out an excellent 5 part progression for effective presentations.


1) Start Strong

Just like a good movie, you want to start out with something that really grabs the audience.

“But how do I do that?”

The book provides a great list of techniques.

Via The New Articulate Executive : Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader:

  1. Begin with the ending
  2. Personal Story
  3. Anecdote or illustration
  4. Rhetorical question
  5. Quotation
  6. Project into the future
  7. Look into past
  8. Humor

And another good trick to a strong start is having your opener down cold.

Anxiety levels drop after a few minutes so having the intro well-rehearsed gets you through the toughest part of the talk.

Via The Art of Public Speaking:


2) Have One Theme

You’d love to convey 67 points and have everyone remember everything. And that is never going to happen.

(You don’t even remember the 8 techniques I listed under “Start Strong” and you just read that a few seconds ago.)

Your audience can walk away with one really good message.

Be clear about what it is ahead of time and your presentation will be more focused.

How does the military make sure objectives are clear when plans are complex and lives are on the line?

They use a concept called “Commander’s Intent”: CI is a crisp, plain-talk statement that appears at the top of every order, specifying the plan’s goal, the desired end-state of an operation.

If the unpredictable occurs rendering plans ineffective, the CI still allows everyone to stay focused on the end goal.

Via Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die:

Have one clear message and the presentation will be easier for you to craft and your audience to remember.

(Here’s more on Commander’s Intent.)


3) Good Examples

Abstract concepts can be hard to grasp and remember. People need examples and stories as mental hooks to hang memories on.

Use anecdotes to illustrate principles for the audience. Create a way for them to see what you’re talking about and to provide proof.

People remember stories, not stats.

Via Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die:

Here’s more on how to be a great storyteller.


4) Conversational Language

Always stay conversational. Research shows when you use big words to sound smart you’re actually perceived as less intelligent:


5) Strong Ending

How do you make sure the end of your presentation is strong and memorable? The book breaks out six methods that can help.

Via The New Articulate Executive : Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader:

  1. Summarize key point or key points. One or three. One is best.
  2. Loop back to the beginning
  3. Ask the audience to do something specific
  4. Appeal to the positive
  5. Project ahead
  6. Tell a symbolic story that embraces your message

Why is a strong ending so important?

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, has shown that your brain really remembers only two things about an event:

  1. The emotional peak
  2. The end

Via The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less:


Now How Am I Supposed to Remember All This?

Toogood uses the acronym POWER:

  • Punch (Strong opener)
  • One Theme
  • Window (Visualize with anecdotes)
  • Ear (Speak conversationally)
  • Retention

More on giving powerful presentations here and here.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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