A solid structure makes a presentation memorable and effective. From narrating the details of the simplest report to introducing your big idea for a client pitch, this can help you craft your PowerPoint’s content and design.
In fact, one of the techniques discussed by brand communications expert Carmine Gallo (2010) in his book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, involves a three-step process: 1) focusing on a specific premise, 2) expounding on it, and 3) driving your idea home when you finish your speech.
In order to capitalize on this technique, there are three important parts you need to have:
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1. The Foundation: Your Main Idea
Just like how any house needs a solid foundation, your core message will define your presentation’s overall look and feel. It needs to be specific, short and relevant, but at the same time, compelling.
One example that Gallo cites in his book was when Steve Jobs presented the MacBook Air in 2008, introducing it as the world’s thinnest notebook. In order to establish his claim, Jobs pulled the new laptop out of a Manila envelope.
It was so thin that he could pull it out of an envelope.
He could have easily gone straight into the product specs. He could have demonstrated what programs it could run. Instead, this short description set the mood more effectively than barraging the audience with jargon.
In just one sentence, he summarized exactly what the MacBook Air was and what it had to offer. From there, every other additional feature, such as the size, weight, display, processors etc., could smoothly follow.
2. The Pillars: Your Supporting Points
Once the foundations have been set, you can use the presentation’s supporting points. These are the facts used to prove your claim.
Let’s go back to the previous example of the MacBook Air. After giving his audience a quick review of the main competitor, all Jobs had to do was elaborate on what made the device unique (i.e. exactly how thin it was compared to the Sony TZ and other leading laptops in the field). By using clear-cut graphs and tables to compare the numbers, he made sure that his additional details were enough to validate that fact.
The human brain can only recall a limited amount of information, up to seven items at most. To prevent information overload, limit your content to at least three main facts for easier recall. This is the same technique employed by Steve Jobs and many successful speakers around the globe.
3. The Conclusion
Leaving a lasting impression is what makes presenters like Jobs effective. Not only does he know his topic well enough to summarize it in one descriptive sentence and three main points, but he can also explain what it means for everyone. This part is where you give the conclusion.
If the main idea is the foundation and the facts are the pillars, then the conclusion is a roof that protects the presentation’s overall structure. It helps reinforce the main premise that you establish as well as generate a reaction from them.
When wrapping up your pitches, quickly summarize what you’ve discussed and remind your listeners why they should care about what you show them.
An example of this was in 2005, when Jobs introduced the iPod Nano. Not only was it smaller than their then-current iPod, it was fully compatible with Apple’s iPod accessories. It had some new nifty extras, but most importantly, it offered the storage capacity everyone expected of an iPod. In short, it was the next-generation replacement at that time.
Summing it Up
Think of presentations in a general 1-3-1 format:
1. The one main idea
2. The three supporting points
3. What all these points mean for your audience.
Following this pattern allows for a smoother, more understandable flow of information when showcasing your ideas.
Since your time is limited onstage, state only the most crucial parts and explain what’s in it for your listeners.
If you build your argument using solid, undeniable facts, you’ll have a strong beginning, middle, and end, much like a sturdy house that won’t be easily blown away by any rebuttals. Effectively cement your argument and close that business deal with this method.
Apple unveils new super-slim Air laptop computer Steve Jobs. YouTube, 2008.
Apple Music Special Event 2005-The iPod Nano Introduction. YouTube, 2005.
“Fine-tuning Your Presentation’s Core Message.” SlideGenius, Inc.. November 11, 2014. Accessed May 4, 2015.
Gallo, Carmine. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of any Audience. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010.
“Understanding Information Overload.” Infogineering. Accessed May 4, 2015.
“Applying the Rule of Three to Your Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 5, 2014. Accessed May 4, 2015.
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