Presentation Structure

Why are most corporate presentations like middle-aged men?

I was asked to give a thought to a colleague who was giving a speech on presentations to a very corporate crowd the other day.  He said…bald

Give me one thought that you think would help this crowd give better presentations.

So I did.  It’s a piece of advice about story structure.  I’ve said many times that most presenters would be better off writing stronger stories (following 50,000 years of human endeavour in learning how to tell stories that work by word of mouth, because the written word has only been available to the masses for about 70 years. And yes I know that the printing press was invented in the 1400’s but most of the world’s population couldn’t read until at least the 1950’s, so give me a break.).

I believe, strongly,  that the problem with business presentations today, is that they don’t follow the well-trodden rules that illiterate storytellers knew, but sophisticated professionals seemingly don’t; that a story just has to have a simple 3-act structure in order to engage, persuade and convince the audience.

  • Act one to make them care about the characters, the context and understand the challenge.
  • Act two to show the options, choices and dilemmas facing the hero.
  • Act three to answer the question posed by the challenge raised in Act one. To end with the answer, the action and certainty.

There’s more to do, but three acts work for most people.  And if you follow that basic story structure you’ll satisfy most crowds, however well you speak.  Though if you speak well, and have no story structure you’ll just irritate them even more.  So what was my advice to my friend?  The answer to the question posed in the title?

Most presentations are like middle aged men because they’re thin on top; too fat in the middle, and are, essentially, pointless.

I’m a middle-aged man too. Life’s hard isn’t it?  And I’m too scared to write the answer to the question- ‘Why are presentations like middle-aged women?’  But I’d be happy for you to share your thoughts!

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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