Putting a good presentation structure into action is the first step.

Do not start on your actual slides, I repeat, do not start on your actual slides… until you know your presentation structure.

Getting your presentation structure right might feel as daunting as delivering the finished thing. Yet a big part of making the delivery feel effortless will come from having a really good presentation structure.

Follow these starting tips:

1. Know your objective:

First things first: you must have an objective! It’s surprising how many presenters know it, but fail to communicate it. Share with the audience what the purpose is of your presentation. Let them know the main points early on. What is it that you want them to take away from it? And what do you want them to do? Define a call to action, and state it both at the start and the end.

2. Make it relevant:

Once you know what you want to get across, you need to think about your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? What do they already know about the subject? Defining your audience helps you to decide on the style, format and content of your presentation.

It's all in the Presentation planning blog - illustration

3. Story-fy it:

Every presentation should tell a story. What story do you want to tell your audience? Plan a strong story outline with a clear beginning, middle and end.  Make the structure visible within your presentation so that your audience can follow it easily.

You may hear this a lot: beginning, middle and end. What do we mean in practice? It might be along the lines of: Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you have told them.

It could be set the scene, state your points, prove your points, repeat your points.

It could be set the scene, here’s a problem, here’s an opportunity, here’s our solution.

However you define the beginning, middle and end: know your path. And stick to it.

4. Layout is Queen:

If content is king, then the layout is queen. The layout of your slides is just as important as the content. Badly designed slides can confuse, bore and distract your audience. Make sure that you use relevant imagery and don’t fill your slides with too much text. If creativity isn’t your strong point consider getting someone with design skills to give you a hand (like the Presented team).

5. Use visual aids:

Most presenters benefit from visual aids. Whilst you don’t want to over-rely on slides, they do make it easier for the audience to get your message. Test your audio, your microphones, your lighting and how your slides come across on different sized screens. Your audience could be viewing on a mobile, a tablet, a laptop, or a super large monitor (as well as or instead of the projection screen). Test and check that your slides look good across these sizes. You may also want to use music or video to enhance your presentation. Decide on this early on and make sure you can get hold of the equipment at the venue or at home.

6. Practice and film yourself:

Practicing your presentation is essential, nerves can ruin even the best set of PowerPoint slides. Practice in front of a colleague or friend. Or if no one is available practice in front of the mirror or a video camera! Speak clearly and with some volume, don’t rush and try to avoid “ums” and “ers”. Indeed, a pause is better than umming. If you’re at home, you won’t have to worry so much about negative body language, but don’t just read from the screen. So make sure you are sitting up straight or standing. Practicing your presentation is also a great way to be sure that you will fill the allocated time (and not go over).

If you follow these steps you’ll be winning – good luck!