“Hey, when you finish your lunch, can you give us an update on the project?” One hour and you’re on! Ack!

Did you know there are strategies you can use to make the last-minute presentation go easier? One of those strategies is to refer to notes that you have put together in a logical structure. Why? Because structure is your friend and your audience’s, too. It’s a map through your thoughts, stories and points. Preparing a speech using a structure will help you cover everything you intend to while staying on track as you do it. And, a well-structured speech helps the audience because they’ll be able to follow you more easily than if you simply stood up and tried to wing it.

How do you structure a speech? There are many ways depending on the situation and the material to be presented, but a common structure is similar to the good ‘ole essay format. This is the one where you tell your audience what you’re going to talk about in your introduction and then proceed to move logically through each point. You can even say things like “My second point is….”. This will clearly indicate to the listeners that what follows is new information which you will expand on. When you then say “My third and final update is….”, you’ll let them know you’re done with point #2 and are moving on to a new and final point. Remember to conclude the whole talk by wrapping it up for them. How? You might very briefly restate each point to remind them what you covered. And, you could do a call to action with something they should do next.

To prepare a presentation when you have little time to actually prepare, create a structure template so that all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Start with a blank page and write a list vertically down it with space between each heading.

Put:

Introduction

Point or update #1

Point #2

Point #3

Conclusion

If you haven’t seen this yet, you can get this structure as a downloadable template of  HERE.

Each of these is a heading for a separate paragraph. Next, under each heading, write the material you need to cover. Keeping each point separate in its own paragraph is another strategy for doing a successful presentation. Separated like this, each topic will be visually clear to you on the page as you deliver it and that in turn should help the audience follow you.

When it comes to doing the presentation at the meeting, if you need to use the full text to refer to, double space your lines and make the font 14 point. Then try indenting alternating paragraphs to help your eye find your next point. Adding some bolding, underlining or highlighting over key words or phrases will make it easier to find them, too, when you glance down for your next point. If you have time when you are preparing, and you feel comfortable to do this, convert one or two paragraph’s main points to bullets. Still keep them grouped together under their heading, though, so each main topic of your update is separate from the others and therefore obvious to see.

Next time you have a last-minute presentation to do, grab a piece of paper or a blank Word document and first type in your structure headings like I put them in above. Then fill in the blanks! That structure will help you stay on track and make it easy for your listeners to follow you.

Remember your listeners get only one chance to hear what you have to say. Make it count!

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