Bottom line

Business presentations should have an absolutely clear structure—the kind your audience simply will not get lost in.

When you're reading a book and get lost, you can flip back and start over. But when you're listening to a speech and get lost, well . . . there's not much you can do except sit there and consult your watch, the window, and the interior of your mind.

So when I prepare a presentation, I try to make its organization absolutely clear. As with writing, I think of a presentation as a trip, and I don't want the people in my audience to get lost. I want them to know, at the beginning, where we're going and how we'll get there.

And when the trip is under way, I want them to know exactly where we are—what town we've just passed and what's coming up.

So here's what I suggest:

• Announce your topic, define any key term, and state your bottom line.

• Then outline for your audience what the major parts of your presentation will be—that's your blueprint.

• And plan strong, obvious transitions throughout.

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That said, there is no one way—no one organizational pattern—to communicate all ideas to all people. But I find this approach works most of the time. I use it when I first start to prepare. It serves me well as a starting point, and it often becomes the final organization I use.

Let's look at these suggestions more closely.

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