Have you ever visited a new city and wandered the streets without a plan or agenda? There is something simultaneously zen and exhilarating about simply enjoying the journey. Have you ever had that zen destroyed when traveling with someone who doesn't want to wander? They want a map. They have expectations. And they want to know those expectations have been met.
This conflict is stressful for both parties and is not exclusive to traveling. In fact, this conflict is often the number one threat to would-be great presentations; there is an audience with expectations and a presenter who seems to wander aimlessly through their content. At the end, neither one gets what they want.
Fortunately, there is a simple trick to solving this conflict. You probably remember your Speech 101 teacher in high school suggesting you do this and he/she was right. Three simple sentences the best presenters live by:
Tell them what you're going to tell them.
Remind them what you're telling them.
Tell them what you've told them.
Yes. It's that simple. It is advice that dates back to the times of Aristotle and even baffled Conan O'Brien. Yet despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of it, many presenters disregard this advice.
Here is a breakdown of each step, why it matters and how you can incorporate into your next presentation.
1. Tell them what you're going to tell them
This is arguably the most important part of your presentation and it's the piece most people leave out. "Tell them what you're going to tell them" means giving an overview of your main points. This simple step packs a powerful presentation punch for several reasons:
First, it is the map your audience craves. Like the traveling companion who wants structure to the trip, every audience wants to know where they're going and what they can expect to learn. A brief overview makes everyone happy.
Second, this overview subtly builds trust with your audience. It illustrates your command; you are a man/woman with a plan and the audience can trust you know what you're doing.
Including this element into your presentation is stupid-easy. After your opening story, transition to the overview. I usually say, "Here's how the rest of our time together will break down." Or, "Here's what you have to look forward to..." Then list the three to five main points of your presentation with a one-sentence description of what they'll learn in each point.
That's it! That simple statement will transform the experience for your audience and make you look like a pro.
2. Remind them what you're telling them
After you've given your overview, it's time to launch into your content. And though you likely know this stuff like the back of your hand remember, your audience doesn't. They can easily get lost in it if you don't keep them on track.
Just like you gave them an overview at the beginning, remind them where they've been and what they're about to learn before each new point. It will keep everyone on track.
3. Tell them what you've told them
As your presentation comes to a close there is one last step: review what they learned. List the three to five main points one more time. If you've done it right, "telling them what you told them" will not only wrap the presentation package up nicely, it will serve as the final confirmation of your mastery. I've had audiences gasp in this final step when they realize A) how much we covered and B) that I delivered them to the exact destination I promised.
I am a big fan of wandering through new cities without an agenda but never in front of a room. If you are ever given the honor of presenting what you know to an audience, follow these three easy steps to give them the presentation journey of a lifetime.