Winning Presentation Structure: Harnessing The Power of Three

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A wise man once said that the best place to begin a journey is at the beginning.

When Deshun Deysel sat down for a candid conversation with Andile Masuku and I on The Presentation Fix a short while ago, she referenced her mountain-climbing experience, and how the mental conditioning required to succeed at that sport is comparable to the trained mindset that makes for successful business presentations. However, it is also true that no amount of steely determination and self-confidence can make up for faulty structure when it comes to preparing a presentation— i.e. ensuring that you have a stimulating introduction, a strong main message or content, and a memorable conclusion.

Every time you speak in public your goal ought to be aim to script a story that has maximum impact and one that communicates your message in a way that’s easily understood by your audience. While it’s important to infuse your personality into how you present your message, you might like to consider looking to some tried and tested presentation structures for inspiration. It might be best to start by harnessing the “Power of Three”.

The Power of Three

Three is widely considered a magical number in the world of communication. Research suggests that our brains find it relatively easier to grasp and remember three points at a time rather than four or more.

Here’s how you can apply this in preparing for your next business presentation. As I mentioned earlier, your presentation should have three key elements: the introduction, middle and conclusion. Start by focussing on your main message, and break it up into three parts, and then further expand each of those points into three sub-points.  If you plan to use props or visual aids like PowerPoint, discipline yourself to limit the number of bullet points you use on each slide to three— then, expand on each of those.

The “Power of Three” also applies to the key questions that the body of your presentation needs to answer— namely, “What?”, “Why?” and “How?”.

What? Why? How?

“What?” speaks to the main message you want to leave your audience with. I have previously shared on the importance of taking the time to get inside your audience’s head in order to craft a message that’s relevant and impactful. It’s important to establish what the benefit of your message is to your audience, i.e. what they stand to gain from listening to you speak and what they can do with the information you share with them.

“Why?” Once the “what” is clearly articulated, your audience naturally starts to think along the lines of “why should I do that?”, “why should I think that?” or “why should that be the case?”  Your job is to answer those questions satisfactorily. Doing that ensures that your audience stays on your side throughout your presentation.

“How?” Having established what the main thrust of your message is and why your audience should care, the next step is to reveal exactly how your audience should act on your message. In other words, you need to activate your audience by making suggestions on how they can act on what you have shared with them.

Finally, you should end off by proving the reliability of your information through case studies, personal anecdotal examples or statistics.

And there you have it. Here’s to hoping that the “Power Three” delivers the edge your presentation needs to make an impact— even in the preparation stage.