Keeping it Structured – 3 Steps to a Better Presentation Structure

How many times have you asked yourself during a presentation “wait a minute, how did we get here”? That question is the result of feeling lost in the presentation and not necessarily because you were dozing off. A well thought-out presentation structure will help you keep your listeners on track and make your presentation that much stronger.

One of the inherent problems with a slide-based presentation program like MS PowerPoint is that takes you visually from one picture to another, breaking up the various pieces of content. It’s easy therefore for inexperienced users (and even some old pros) to concentrate too much on the content of the individual slides and to give less thought to slide order and transition.

A good presentation is a logical progression of ideas that should build up to an ultimate statement, question or call to action. If you are not building good arguments step-by-step you will lose the listener and you will be less effective in your presentation.

So, how do we give our presentation a good structure, you would be correct in asking. Here are three things that I have learned and used successfully over the past few years in my consulting career. I hope that you consider them and that they will be equally successful in your presentations:

1) Ensure that you are using a uniform slide design template for your presentation. Most companies have proprietary PowerPoint template designs, a so-called CI (Corporate Identity), but if your company does not or if you are a student, it is fairly simple to make one (I have tutorial about this coming soon). In either case, company CI or self-created template, you should use it! This will, surprisingly, help to keep your listeners on track.

2) Always include a “goals” or “target” slide at the beginning of your presentation. This will tell you listeners immediately what your are hoping to achieve with the presentation (not dissimilar to writing a good paper) and helps keep you honest and on-track when doing the final checks of your presentation.

3) Separate main points with an agenda point slide. If your presentation is longer than 10 slides, I would encourage you to separate your main sections or chapters with a slide that introduces the fact that you are moving onto another section. It can be simply a blank slide with the name or purpose of the next section on it.

If you use these three tips in your presentation you are bound to have made an improvement. Remember, providing a good structure to your presentations will help you better make your point.

4 Top Tips: How to Effectively Negotiate a New Car Price

Purchasing a new car can become a fairly complicated process. It means spending hours on researching a suitable car, testing long forgotten math skills to calculate the finance terms and prepping to get the best price out of a car deal. However, the benefits to negotiate a car price are plenty. With a negotiated price, not only do you pay less money but you can also use the money and invest it elsewhere. Learning how to effectively negotiate a new car price is a skill that you can master. Keep the following tips in mind while you set out to negotiate the price of your next car.

1) Do Your Homework

Before turning up at the dealership, make sure you have done enough research regarding the car you wish to purchase. Conducting a good research will assist you in getting a clear picture of the type of car you want, the required features and the approximate budget you can allocate to the car. Many car manufacturers have special prices on their website. You could use the research to your advantage during negotiating the price of the car. If you go into the dealership with an idea of a fixed car and an approximate price, you will be able to dismiss any attempted sales tactics to make you buy an unnecessarily expensive car.

2) Visit Several Dealerships

After conducting a thorough research, try to visit more than one dealership. Amongst all the prices, compare the price of the lowest deal with another dealer and ask if he can beat the previous price. Another reason to visit various dealerships is to get the car with all the features you require. Expanding your reach will enable you to obtain the best price while still retaining all the features of the car you wish to purchase.

3) Negotiate on the Total Amount

Many a times, an illusion of a lower monthly payment clouds your judgment. A low monthly payment is usually spanned out over a long time frame with a heavy interest rate. In order to negotiate the lowest price, make sure you negotiate the final price based on the total amount of the car. Additionally, if you provide a down payment and repay the remaining amount within a short time frame, you will be able to make a better offer to the dealer.

4) Lay a Floor Price and a Ceiling Price

During the process, have a mental range between which you would like to negotiate your car. The floor price is the lowest price at which you should start negotiating. Usually, the floor price is 5 to 10 percent lower than the car manufacturer’s price. Alternatively, a ceiling price is the final price up to which you are willing to pay. If any dealer quotes a price that is higher than your ceiling price, you should shop around and look for other options. Therefore, a floor price and a ceiling price will assist you in cracking your deal and help you purchase the car within your range.

While purchasing a new car may be a long process, negotiating the deal doesn’t have to be. Consider the above pointers before you set out to negotiate the price of your next new car.

Presentation Skills – The 10-Second Rule

Your main job as a presenter is to ensure that throughout your presentation, you and everyone in the audience remain on the same page, even the same wavelength, every step of the way. If your slides contain more information that it takes the average listener more than 10 seconds to comprehend, you can’t possibly make this happen. People process information at different rates; faster processors will take a shorter time and the slower processors will take longer. Before you know it, you’ve got an audience working at three to five different wavelengths at the same time.

Then to make things worse, most presenters start talking, explaining the slide, at usually about the 5 second mark, and thus add one more thought-path, one more wavelength, to the whole process.

The Bell Curve

Think about it. If the amount of time it takes the average reader to ingest the info on the screen is 30 seconds, then a classic bell curve will tell you that 20% of the audience is going to read it all in 20 seconds, and 20% will take 40 seconds. Another aggregate 20 will fall into the 10 to 60 second range, and before we calculate it all, we know that we have the group broken down into at least five groups of perception time-lines. Now, let’s screw it all up and throw you into the soup, and you begin talking at some new, arbitrary point. To whom are you speaking?

Chance tells us you’re speaking to the largest group; let’s say the 40% who read at an average pace. That leaves 60%, a landslide in political terms, either way ahead or way behind the bullet point upon which he begins to expound.

Actually, it gets worse! You see, as much as a you might be totally in love with the design of a slide you may have spent hours composing, audiences rarely find your stuff as captivating. Because the presentation is important to you, it’s easy to believe that everyone will be engrossed in the action on the screen and thus giving the event their entire attention.

But tell us: have you ever sat through a colleague’s presentation and found yourself thinking about something other than the material he was sweating blood to deliver? Perhaps your plans for the upcoming weekend? The safety of your children? Whether you can let that bill slide this month?

No audience member, no matter how captivating you might believe you are, ever, ever, ever gives a presenter 100% of her attention. Human minds don’t work that way. Long before Windows, we were multi-taskers.

As lives become more complicated, and work cuts into personal time, the line between work and personal become blurred, and we compartmentalize less. Although it’s difficult to attach hard numbers here, it’s reasonable to assume that at best our audiences are tuning in to us -and us alone- more than 75% of the time.

So even if we’re directly communicating with 40% of the group, given our (at best) 75% maximum attention factor, we have no more than 30% of the audience in our camp. The rest are either struggling to catch up, or consider themselves so advanced that their minds begin to wander to unrelated topics, such as their children, the weekend, their bills; they become non-participants in the process.

Taking it to the Limit

So what does this tell us? Of course, there is only one truly viable solution, and that is to limit, by all means possible, the amount of information that is released with each click of your mouse.

First of all, the less time it takes the audience to discern the new information, the sooner they’ll get back to you and start to listen to what you really mean to “say” on the slide.

Secondly, the less time it takes the average people to figure out for themselves what’s going on, the less the width of the bell curve.

Third, and most important, is this: if your slides are designed correctly and consists of nothing but graphics and talking points, or headline-style phrases, the audience will soon realize that they are not being shown enough information to figure things out for themselves. They will conclude that the only way they can hope to be the first to know is to turn their attention quickly to you, and have it spoon fed to them. And this is exactly where you want them to be!

If you put everything you want them to know up on the screen, and if you spell it out longhand, you are training them to look to the screen for their information. Humans recognize patterns quickly, and as soon as the screen becomes the pattern, that’s where they’ll go. Problem is, they’ll be reading one thing while you’re speaking about something else!

The rule of thumb from all this? Make sure that with each passing image, it never takes longer than 10 seconds for the audience to “clear the slide”. By clearing the slide we mean removing the curiosity. Have no more than 10 seconds of material – bullet point, graphic, chart, etc. – appear at one time.