Following Your Storyboard: Key to Effective Presentations

Putting your storyboard together is one of the most important activities of preparing to give a presentation. Each storyboard should contain the following elements.

  • Opening
  • Main Points
  • Supporting Points
  • Details – For Clarity
  • Closing

I’m often amazed when I see corporate business plan presentations. They look like the preparer took all the information in his or her head and dumped it into a PowerPoint® presentation. Not only do they seem just a data dump, but they don’t communicate the necessary information–they prevent the audience members from comprehending what is important. Our job as leaders is to convert/translate data into information, adding our interpretation and wisdom to the content.

Many corporate presenters are communicating very complex information–much of it scientifically — or technically-based. Sometimes the information is so technical and complex that it is over the heads of audiences. The first activity that every presenter needs to focus on is, “who is your audience?” Understanding the capacity of your audience will help you design your storyboard. The real challenge comes when the audience capacity is so broad that you have equal risk of speaking down to people as you do of speaking beyond them. One gifted presenter I have the pleasure of knowing and working with will spend time developing a simple primer of the subject to be covered, starting out with simple statements and examples, and escalating the degree of complexity, thereby bringing his audience along. Less skilled presenters will start right in on their subject without any warm-up–and they lose their audience at the very beginning. This is especially common when a presentation builds upon preceding theories. Once you lose your audience, it is difficult to get their attention back.

From the list of storyboard elements, start with the last one, developing your closing, first. Always begin with the end in mind. What do you want your audience to take away from this presentation? Is it information? Do you want them to move to action? Knowing this in advance will help you build your presentation. After you are clear about the outcomes, then you can begin to put your main points into place.

“In the beginning…” Isn’t this a famous saying? Well, in the beginning of your presentation, you need to set the tone of what you intend to cover and lay out the framework of where you are headed. Establishing a bond with your audience is key to gaining their confidence in you as the presenter of the information. Look audience members in the eye, use pauses effectively, and open strongly by sharing with them the scope of your subject and what your approach in presenting it will be. At some level, you are “selling” them on listening to you. And, let’s face it, we are all nervous when we begin a presentation, but don’t use jokes to fill an empty space and don’t set expectations that you can’t fulfill. All along, we want a style of presentation that establishes credibility with the audience–not by telling them how good we are, but instead by sharing examples that support our material and demonstrate our expertise. Being perceived as an expert is paramount to delivering an effective presentation. This convincing can be quick for some, but for other audience members, it may take some time.

In our presentation, we want to identify the two or three main points that we would like our audiences to remember. These main points must be reinforced throughout our presentation. Repetition does not necessarily hurt. Many times, presenters are so enamored with all the material they know about a particular topic that they just carry on with so much detail that it is impossible for the audience to absorb all the content. This data dump, as opposed to the communication of relative information, adds confusion instead of clarity. Details should add clarity to the subject, not burden the audience with superfluous data.

As presenters of information, you should add your “spin” or “wisdom” to the content. Part of the presentation objective is to communicate content with color and part of the color is your opinion. Just make sure that your opinions are supported with information. Opinion is the value add that we provide as the deliverer of the content.

Unfortunately, we (me included) often feel so pressed for time, that we bypass the important step of building the storyboard, moving directly to creation of the presentation. Take an hour or so of quiet and map out your presentations. Like most important activities in our lives, if we take the time to plan, we will be happier with the outcomes.

Now ask yourself… “Am I a Leader?”