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Structuring a Winning Presentation

Choosing the right structure for your presentation, sometimes referred to as the “flow”, is critical to effectively achieving your desired result, whatever it may be.  Additionally, by having a clear structure in mind, it will help you to more efficiently design and prepare your presentation.  The structure provides the framework on which you can build a high-quality presentation.   Here I’ve outline 9 different commonly used presentation structures:   

1.  Spatial: This involves organising the information based on the elements’ relative physical position to each another.  This can be geographically, such as discussing American capital cities from East to West.  Or, it could be purely in a physical sense, such as describing a room by moving clockwise around it. 

2.  Chronological: Events are reviewed, discussed or presented based on the time/date when they happened.  This could be any measure of time (i.e. centuries, years, minutes, nano-seconds, etc.) and can also be done in reverse chronological order starting from the most recent event and working your way back.

3.  Step by Step: This is typically used to present or explain a process.  The presenter explains the issue by guiding the audience through the steps in the process. 

4.  Topical Sequences: This is one of the most common approaches as it can be used in almost any situation.  The presenter covers each topic one by one.  This is a common approach in presenting a business plan (i.e. product, marketing, finance, manufacturing, etc.).

5.  Paired Sequences: This is a topical sequence that only involves 2 topics and typically is used as a “compare and contrast” type presentation – pros & cons, costs & benefits, etc. 

6.  Sort by Property Sequences: These are unique topical sequences where the presenter organises the information related to a specific characteristic.  For example, presenting the different topics based on their relative size (smallest to largest), cost (least expensive to most expensive) or any other characteristic.   

7.  Climactic: This structure is a version of “Sort by Property”. It involves specifically ordering the content from least important to most important, working towards a climax at the end of the presentation.

8.  Problem/Solution:  This structure is commonly used in sales presentations.  It involves presenting the problem and then presenting a specific solution, whether it’s a product, a service or a strategy for solving the problem.  

9.  Elimination:  This structure is based on starting with many options and eliminating them one by one by looking at the pros and cons of each approach.   The goal is to have one option remaining, which is the desired option of the presenter. 

It’s easy to fall in the trap of using the same structure for every presentation, even when it might not be the best structure for the subject and what you’re trying to achieve.  Next time you’re preparing a presentation take a few minutes to explore some of these structures to see if another approach might be more effective.  I

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