Presentation Skills: Organize Your Material Around Your Message

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When you are preparing a presentation, it’s crucial that you focus on your message, the one thing you’d like the audience to remember from your presentation. State it in one or two sentences - think of it as fitting on a headline of a newspaper or a billboard.
And everything that you include in your presentation needs to relate to your message.  As you organize your information, you may think of data that you like to talk about, or an interesting story – but if it does not relate to your message by supporting it or enhancing it in some way, do not include it in your presentation.

The culling and editing process can be difficult, but it is worth your time and effort.  If something doesn’t relate to your message, you waste the audience’s precious time by muddying the waters.  Providing extra material that distracts from and clouds your message will make it harder for the audience to extract what it is you’re really focusing on.
What can you do with the extra material?

  • Have it ready, in case there are questions where it would be appropriate to include it.
  • Provide it as a supplement either before or after your presentation – email it, post it on a website or hand it out.
Apply the “message test” to every part of your presentation -- every story, every example, every fact, everything that you want to include.  Ask yourself: “Does it make sense? Does it fit my message?” If it fits, keep it in your presentation.  If it doesn’t fit, cut it out.

Don’t make the audience dig through all your material to unearth your message. 
The more you can craft your presentation so that it is clear and uncluttered by “extra stuff,” the easier it will be for your audience to stay focused and understand the point you are trying to communicate.

For more on this topic, see my blog post Presentation Skills: What is Your Message? 

Gilda Bonanno's blog