The last time I gave a presentation I felt like I spoke too fast, stumbled over my words and made a general arse of myself. I was delivering a presentation about Stylescapes to a class of first year Fashion Marketing students over Zoom and I thought it sucked!

The amount of online meetings people have has skyrocketed over the last 12 to 18 months. Being a freelance designer in regional Victoria, I welcome their prevalence and am very grateful that most companies now accept working remotely as a viable workflow. Shit, being able to dial in from home is pretty much the core reason why my husband Matt and I started TinyOffice!

While online meetings have numerous benefits, there are an equal amount, if not more, problems that online meetings cause or contribute to. The most obviously is that horrible 1 second lag that kills the flow of any conversation. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve talked over someone or someone has talked over me because we couldn’t hear each other straight away. It’s made for some pretty awkward, fumbled online engagements!

If you happen to be giving a presentation over Zoom, like I was, not being able to see the audience and gauge their reaction was tough! It felt like I spoke flat tack for 20 minutes because I couldn’t see if anyone wanted to stop and ask a question. I’m sure the students would have raised their digital hand if they wanted to but they were quite a shy bunch so I just blurted out the whole presentation until it was finished!

It turns out that the presentation wasn’t nearly as bad as I recalled but there was absolutely room for improvement. Coincidentally this week I got the section on communication in my ‘Business made Simple’ course by Donald Miller. I was asked if I could give another presentation to the next intake of fashion students so I figured if I’m going to have to present to a computer screen again I had better give the structure of my presentation a bit more attention.

Everyone wants to be able to give an inspiring speech, presentation or meeting. So many meetings are hard to sit through because the speaker relies too heavily on their deck or it's filled with too much data so it all becomes meaningless, or worse yet they just talk about themselves.

A good presentation should answer five questions:

  1. What is the problem you are going to help the audience solve?
  2. What is your solution to the problem?
  3. What will the audience's life look like if they buy into the solution?
  4. What do the audience need to do next - CTA?
  5. The one thing you want the audience to take away.

When you are planning a presentation or a speech you need to invite your audience into a story. Imagine your presentation as a movie script.

There is an overarching theme = Controlling idea, the main objective.

Have plot points = Points that contribute to the main objective.

Foreshadow a climactic scene = what the audience will experience if they take action.

Call to Action = what steps need to be taken to make this idea happen.

By planning out your presentation like this you will be taking your audience on a journey. You’ll be using the fundamental structure of good storytelling to engage your audience and give them tangible instructions on what to do next. So many meetings are held without a CTA being addressed which is why so many meetings feel pointless - if there is on action to be taken then why was I there?

I’m going to take this advice onboard and rework my stylescape presentation for the next group of students who are going to see it. If I can’t see them, and they don’t want to engage then at least I’ll be giving them a good story! And everyone loves a good story, right?

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