How to Organize a Compelling Presentation

By Lou Solomon

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At Interact Studio we’re often asked how to plan and deliver a great keynote or high stakes presentation. There are many ways to outline and organize your material, and indeed entire careers have been built on helping speakers do just that.

I have long been influenced by John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School because his research shows us how to speak to the brain in an optimal way.

Sample outline

Here is my adaptation of Dr. Medina’s practical equation for lesson plans that maintain the attention of an audience:

Open. The first couple of minutes of your presentation telegraphs a reason your audience might want to pay attention—or not. The quest is to be immediately interesting.

10-minute Rule. Divide your presentations into 10-minute segments. Researchers have known for years that the brain checks out after 10 minutes.

Core Concepts. In each segment, cover a single core concept in the first minute. We’re better at seeing the bigger picture before the detail (this allows for a 40 percent improvement in understanding, according to Medina).  

Facts and Details. Use 7-8 minutes in the segment to provide compelling facts and a detailed description of that single general concept.

Storybites. At the end of each ten minute segment, just before the audience’s attention slips away, grab it back with a 1-2 minute storybite. Anecdotes, quotes, metaphors, analogies and illustrations renew the audience’s attention.  

Close. The Close should re-emphasize the big idea or main message of your presentation. It doesn’t have to be done by restating it exactly. You might make a deeper point with a storybite.

To give a great keynote, follow this advice, “If you want to give a brilliant talk, open and close well and don’t screw it up in between.” Please reach out if you’d like our help with your next keynote presentation.

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