All good stories, it has been said, have a beginning, a middle and an end, just not necessarily in that order.
The same, it has probably also been said, is true of good presentations. All good presentations have a clear beginning, an informative middle and a motivating finale, quite often in that order.
In presenting, structure matters.
Presentation structure provides the scaffolding for a presenter to hang brilliant ideas from. Presentation structure also enables the presenter to tread the fine and inspiring footpath along the boundary between safety and danger, between certainty and chaos, between familiarity and adventure.
Beginning, middle, end could not be simpler as structural templates go, even so many presentations lack such simple definition. When writing your presentation, once you have ensured it has a clear beginning, middle and end then you can play with it, mix it up and look for opportunity to use the structure more creatively.
How can a presenter use presentation structure more creatively?
1. As presenter you should ask yourself, when preparing your presentation- 'Who is this structure for? For me or for the individual members of my audience?'
Is the structure simply guiding you, the presenter, safely through the presentation, or is the structure destined to take the audience on a journey, to engage the audience in a story?
Make the audience the star of your presentation story, design a structure for them as well as yourself.
2. It's all very well telling you to use a beginning, middle and end, but what does a presentation's beginning, middle and end need to contain? And, how do you make it interesting?
One way is to use a timeline - past, present and future.
The beginning of a presentation correlates to the past, the middle the present and the end the future.
Again, so simple.
If you use the beginning of your presentation to draw from the past, you ensure the scene is set and the audience know the context.
The middle then addresses the situation as it is today, in all its complex dynamics. The present is described, investigated and explained.
Then the final part of your presentation focuses on the future, on possibility and potential, on what lies ahead.
A skilful presenter can describe numerous possible futures and leave their audience's imagination excited and invigorated.
As you can see, presentation structure is vital, but as with all structures you have to keep them flexible!
Play with the beginning, middle, end: past, present, future relationship when you're creating your presentation and you stand a good chance of establishing enough coherent structure to tell your audience to a satisfying story.