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4 Ways To Ace Your Next Presentation

By Kelsey Manning Kelsey Manning

Giving an excellent presentation isn’t art, it’s science. Good presentations, from the simplest project proposal to a viral TED Talk, are built off the same key ingredients. They propose a problem, offer a solution, and tell a story along the way. They are succinct, focusing on the major points with a perfect balance of narrative and research. With Young Einsteins guide to structuring a presentation, you’ll strike the perfect note every time.

1. Start with the middle.

Ask yourself what the three most important points you want people to take away from this presentation are. Regarding memory, good things do come in threes—groups of three are the most likely to stick with your audience. Additionally, studies show that people will only remember about four slides from a 20-slide presentation. After a 10-minute presentation, people only remembered about 50% of what was said. By the next day that dropped to 20%, and the next week it was only 10%. You need to be able to consolidate your presentation into the three most important takeaways, and structure it to ensure that those three takeaways are that 10%.

2. Gather and integrate your research.

For each point in your “key three”, you need to have some research to back it up. Following each point with a relevant statistic, case study, or survey will ensure that the essential point is sharp enough to stick in your audience’s minds. To see this integration in action, simply watch a few of the 20 most popular TED Talks of all time. In Amy Cuddy’s famous talk, “Your Body Language Shapes, Who You Are,” she does this beautifully. One of her first points is that power poses are inherent and occur across the animal kingdom, humans included. She then cites a study by Jessica Tracy, which showed that even people who are born blind do this pose when they feel powerful. It’s a bit of research that works in beautifully with her talk and truly hammers that point home.

3. Grab your audience with a bold opening.

There are many ways to successfully open a presentation—you just need to figure out which one works for you, your topic, and your audience. Amy Cuddy begins with a bold claim, followed by some funny photographs and video clips. In “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brene Brown opens with a funny story that explains who she is. Here are some options for you to work with:

  • A funny joke (that avoids controversial topics)
  • Unusual or interesting facts about your industry or the audience
  • A short video clip
  • A quote
  • A captivating story
  • A strong or surprising statement
  • Suspense

Make sure whatever you choose can segue seamlessly into the first of your three key points.

4. Summarize and leave them thinking.

Once you’ve written your introduction, flowed it into your three main points, and backed those up with compelling research, the ending is a breeze. Quickly summarize your three main points, and close with a story or inspiring quote that will leave your audience thinking about the implications of what you’ve presented. Amy Cuddy only closes with urging her audience to a. take two minutes to try power posing, and b. share the science with others. It’s simple, it’s rousing, and it moves people to action.

Now go get to work on your most powerful presentation yet. Want even more help? See Young Einsteins How to structure a presentation tool.

Kelsey Manning

Kelsey Manning

Kelsey is a freelance writer and Notre Dame graduate who is passionate about great books, great fashion, and great careers. She is an Advertising & Promotions Coordinator at HarperCollins, designing book ads and paraphernalia for everything from To Kill A Mockingbird to Bad Feminist. She also works for former Cosmo Editor-in-Chief Kate White and writes regularly for Young Einsteins, Levo League, and The Gloss. Her work has appeared on Refinery29, Fast Company, TIME, Business Insider, Forbes, and more.

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