Tag Archives: Presentation Structure

Consider Your Gift

The next time you take to the stage to speak or to present, consider your gift.

“Giving a gift” by asenat29 (flickr) via Wikimedia Commons

The gift I’m speaking about in this article is not your commanding voice, or your motivating gestures, or any other of the many skills and traits that go into making a powerful speaker. The gift I’m talking about is the core message you’ve brought to share with your audience.

We live in an age of overstimulation. At every turn we are being wooed, cajoled, charmed and distracted by people and things vying for our attention. Combined with the fact that the average audience member possesses, in the form of a smart phone, the ability to tune you out or replace you with information and tasks more relevant to their daily existence. If you turn up without a gift, you will lose that battle.

So, what kind of gift should you bring? Well, how about something that will enhance or improve the lives of the people you are speaking to. The gift can be in the form of information, or entertainment or inspiration. The point is that it has to be for your audience, not for you; and, it has to be offered magnanimously, with generosity and a real care and concern for those listening to your message. In short… it has to be a gift.

The problem with finding the gift in your presentation is that it isn’t always self-evident. It can be hard to lead to a frustrating search, and it can be hard to find, but finding it is worth every moment of the time you spend searching. At Sliding, when we work with a new client, a good portion of our opening sessions are often spent helping the client bore down to the crux of their message. Our credo is that you must be able to state your core message in fifteen words or less or you’ll risk losing your audience.

That fifteen words or less that constitutes your core message will be your gift. The truth is; if what you want to say to your audience doesn’t seem like a gift to you, you probably shouldn’t be standing up to speak to them, because they will have no reason to listen and you will have no reason to speak to them.

The great thing about “the gift” is that it not only benefits the audience; it also provides practical and tangible benefits to the presenter, particularly in the area of delivery. Here are three such benefits:

  1. Speaking and presenting can be a daunting experience. Many people actually say they are less afraid of death than they are of public speaking. By having a gift to offer it helps to shift the focus of your presentation from you to the audience. It also gives you, the presenter something to focus your thoughts on other than how you’re doing or whether the audience is receiving you well.
  2. Having a gift will turn your presentation from an “inny” to an “outy.” Having a gift that you fervently want to share with your audience provides you with a mission to accomplish. The mission will in turn inject a sort of motive force into your presentation that will help you to reach out to your audience and connect with them on a more personal level.
  3. Having a gift gives you something to be excited about. It’s like the unwrapping of presents on a Christmas morning, when you’ve got something really great for someone you just can’t wait to show them. Having a gift to share with your audience will help you to find, and share, that same type of enthusiasm.

Consider your gift. If you prepare a presentation and can’t find the gift within it, it may be time to reconsider the presentation. When you do find the gift within your presentation hone it until you’ve made it absolutely clear, concise and compelling. Then, when you take to the stage to share your gift, do so with enthusiasm, generosity and love. It’s your gift to share.

Cheers, Patrick

The Importance of a Clear, Concise and Compelling Main Message

Never lose target with an effective message

MessageOne can never stress enough how critical a clear, concise, and compelling main message is to the success of your presentations.  In this article, I’ll share with you what a main message is, why it is important and, finally, how to construct an effective main message so that your audience will remember it and make it a success.


What is a main message?

It is a well-known fact that most people only remember a fraction of what you, or any other presenter, convey in a presentation.  Therefore, it is crucial to make every effort to ensure that your audience walks away with the most important message from your presentation… your main message.  The rest they can learn later from your handout.

A main message is a short sentence of no more than 15 words that describes the core of your presentation.  It is the message you need your audience to take away if they’re only going to remember one thing.  It has to be clear, concise and, preferably, compelling.


Why is a strong main message important to the success of your presentation?

Every time you create a presentation or speech you are faced with the challenge of deciding what information to leave in or out of your presentation.

A strong main message will act as a filter or firewall to guard the content of your presentation; this makes the process of selecting the content for your presentation much easier and much more effective.

In fact, the first test of a good main message is to gauge how easy it is for you to decide what to leave in or what to take out of your presentation; if you find yourself doubting whether a specific idea belongs in your presentation it means your main message is not robust enough. When that happens I strongly recommend you to go back to the drawing board and fine-tune your main message.

So, a clear and concise main message will help you to:

  1. Ensure that your audience will remember your idea, product, solution, information, et cetera.
  2. Greatly simplify the selection process for ideas and supporting points within your presentation or speech.


How to create a strong main message?

After years of helping our customers to craft effective main messages I find that it is easiest to imagine the following scenario: You are about to deliver your presentation when you find that a key member of your audience has to leave. While leaving the room, he or she says you, “before I live you have 10 seconds to tell me the one thing that is the keystone of your presentation today.”  You have to be razor sharp and your message has to be razor sharp.

To create a clear message, use simple and explicit words.  To create a concise message, say only one thing, no more.  To create a compelling message, talk to your audience’s needs, dreams and pains.


Is the main message the same as the foundational phrase?

It is common to mistake both terms, but they are not necessarily the same.  A foundational phrase is a saying that you will repeat several times through your presentation to help your audience remember your main message —not specifically to filter the information you’re presenting.  The main message is a filter; a foundational phrase is a mnemonic tool.

Having said that; if your main message is compelling, catchy and sticky, as a foundational phrase should be, you could use it as such.


In conclusion

A clear, concise and compelling main message is the first, and probably, the most important step in the creation of a presentation or speech.  It takes time to create a short phrase that will contain the core of your presentation (with our coaching clients, it can often take between one to two hours of intensive work), but is time well spent.

So, if you don’t have a strong main message, stop, don’t go any further in the process of creating your presentation. The chances are very high that you will just be wasting your time.



Cheers, Gerardo.

Create a Presentation as you Travel

By using the SLIDING method you can create a presentation anytime, anywhere.

Create a Presentation as you Travel
Image by Cicava via FreeImages.com

I was speaking with two presenter friends of mine, Alan and Barbara, about the problems we all face when it comes time to create a presentation.  The first presenter, Alan, said that the biggest obstacle he faced was finding the time to create a presentation because he travels so much.  In response to this, the second presenter, Barbara, who travels even more than Alan, said she was actually at her most creative when she traveled, and came up with some of her best ideas while sitting in an airport lounge.

As we talked further I realized why their responses were so different.  When it came time to create a presentation the first thing Alan did was turn on his computer and open a presentation software app, like PowerPoint or Keynote.  Meanwhile, Barbara wouldn’t even look at her computer until well into her creative process. At Sliding.ca we subscribe to the process used by Barbara.  And, not surprisingly, to the use of our SLIDING method as a part of that process.

The SLIDING method:

  • Search for any information or materials that can be used to convey your message.
  • Learn about your audience; what is it they need and how can you help to fill that need.
  • Identify the information that directly relates to those needs.
  • Delete any and all information that doesn’t fully support your message or distracts from your message.
  • Integrate the information so that it is grouped logically and concisely.
  • Navigate through the information so that it has a sense of flow and rhythm.
  • Gauge your results and then go back and repeat the process.

The beauty of the SLIDING method is that most of the steps can be utilized anytime and anywhere.  In the early stages all you need to create a presentation is a piece of paper and a pencil.  This is the Search step of the process. By its very nature it is a relaxed, informal, free-flowing process.  Unfortunately, the moment Alan took out his computer his creative process became subservient to the mechanical processes of the machine and the constraints of the environment he was required to work within.

Barbara, on the other hand, found herself free to create in a much more organic and open way.  Whenever an idea would pop into her head, she would simply pull out her notebook, jot it down, and go back to whatever she was doing when inspiration struck.  The beauty of Barbara’s approach was that any idea that popped into her head could apply to and be used for any one of a myriad of topics she might be working on, or might work on in the future.

Conversely, the process Alan used to create a presentation forced him to think in a much more linear fashion.  It became about the words and how one sentence followed another instead of being about the ideas and, ultimately, the message he hoped to share with his audience.

Sitting in an airport lounge energized Barbara.  She loved the hustle and bustle and told me how she would get many of her ideas from watching the travelers pass by and wonder where they came from and where they were going to.  She would jot down descriptions of the passersby, notes about where she imagined they came from, and story lines about where she imagined they were going.

After gathering all this material, without ever needing to go near a computer, Barbara would draw on the ideas she had written down in order to create analogies and metaphors designed to help her to connect and communicate with her audience.  The next step of her process, and the SLIDING method, would be to Learn about her audience and which of the many ideas she came up with that would apply to their particular needs.

Whether sitting in an airport lounge, sipping coffee in a quiet café, or hard at work at the office you can begin to create a presentation without ever having to take out a computer or type a single word.  Then, when you are finally ready to commit words to screen and build the visual portion of your presentation, your message and your plot will be clear in your mind and you’ll have a story to tell. And, as we all know, in the 21st Century if you don’t have a story to tell, nobody’s going to listen.

In this article, I’ve focused on the Search portion of the SLIDING method. If you’d like to learn more about the entire SLIDING method and the seven key elements of a well structured, memorable, and effective presentation, go to our Sliding.ca home page and register for our monthly newsletter.

And remember, the next time you have to create a presentation, begin with paper and pencil; you’ll enjoy the freedom.


Cheers, Patrick