Structuring a memorable presentation

Posted on 2017/08/21


The unfortunate truth is that most presentations are utterly forgettable. There are a number of reasons for that, but commonly it is because the structure is not right for the purpose. The key to a memorable presentation is to first consider what your message is and then matching the structure to that. We will first look at three effective structures and then some finer points/tips.


A story

We have heard a lot in recent years about the power of storytelling. A good story should have a strong beginning, middle, and end – this is a classic structure that most of us are very familiar with. A story structure can be used as a way to present a new product, or perhaps a new company. The narrative should be creative and interesting. Don’t forget that characters are very important, and that character does not need to be human – it could for example be a product that is meeting a particular need.

2)     Persuasion

One of the most common types of presentation is when the person speaking is trying to persuade the audience of something. For example selling a service or perhaps a political agenda. The best structure for this is known as problem-solution. This works for all types of arguments. Start with a couple of minutes to introduce the problem at a very high level. Then present your argument in depth. This should be followed by the solution, along with the associated benefits. 

3)     Product demonstration

Steve Jobs was a heavyweight at product demonstrations. As he launched new Apple products, he was captivating. He would start off by explaining why the product is amazing, the problems it solves, and its use case. Thereafter the product is demoed/showcased. This is only successful if the individual presenting really believes in the product and is enthused about what they are showing to others. Don’t give away all of the functionality and features – hint at what else might be available or in the pipeline. Pique people’s interests and leave them wanting to know more.


Once you have decided on your overall structure, consider some of the finer points as follows:

  • Be mindful of transitions and ensure they smoothly transition between the sections of the presentation.
  • Include supporting material when you are making points – use research, examples and/or information from case studies.
  • Deliver any bad news upfront. Unfortunately there will be times when a presentation is used to communicate something that will be perceived as negative by the audience, such as organisational redundancies. Do not be tempted to bury this in the middle of the presentation – nobody will thank you for it.

 In Summary

These three structures cover most of the presentation situations. Don’t think of the structures as flat, but as a framework to add really interesting content to. Avoid being overly detailed and bogged down in information. Your aim should be to hold the audience’s attention and get people excited about what you have to say.