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A Recipe for a Perfect Presentation

I am a lover of formulas. People can remember a formula. People can repeat a formula. And if your formula is good enough, a company many adopt it and make it a part of their culture.

Because I like diagrams and formulas so much, let me lay out the super simple keynote for you here. It has three components:

1. Opening Story
2. Three-point Formula
3. Closing Story

Your opening story leads to your three-point formula, which leads to your closing story. Let’s take a closer look (see the prezi below, or keep reading for the tips):

Your Opening Story

If you blow your opening, you will spend the large majority of your speech trying to win the audience back.

Launching right into your presentation is the best way to engage the audience quickly. I open my presentations for professional speakers with an imagination sequence that has them earning $15,000 per speech and having limousines whisking them away to the airport after the gig. I do all of this to:

  1. get people engaged and present with me in the room—not on their phones;
  2. show them that I know them;
  3. make it about them and not me; and
  4. get them participating with me so that they know this will not be “lecture” style, that it will be highly interactive.

Lou Heckler says that your opening needs to do the following three things (see, he couldn’t resist using three!):

  1. Get the audience’s attention; make them put the handheld devices down.
  2. Preview the theme of your presentation (again, topic is the subject, the theme is your unique approach to that subject).
  3. Allow the audience to peek behind the curtain to see who you are (what your values are, etc.).

Many people open with humor. If you have a funny story that could tee up your key theme, then that might be gold.

Points #1, #2, #3

After your opening story, you want to move into the three points discussed earlier. There’s an old saying, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.” After your opening, you might offer up your agenda and say, “we’re going to cover three things today, a, b, and c.” Then you go on to tell them a, b, and c, using terrific stories to illustrate each. Then at the end you would again say, “Today we’ve talked about a, b, and c… and in conclusion.” Now I don’t recommend that you sound that canned or formal. Hopefully you get the idea.

Your Closing Story

Many speakers fail to deliver a powerful closing story, and their speech simply leaves the audience hanging.

Your closing story should wrap up all of the information that you shared into a nice, neat bow. A really great closing story pulls people out of their chairs and into action. And perhaps while they’re standing, they offer you up an ovation.

Let’s check in with Sarah Hilton on how to pull it together.

How to Close Your Talk—Sarah Hilton

As we know, storytelling is the key ingredient to connecting with your audience. It is with a strongly-told story that your audience will relate your message to their own life and connect with it emotionally. With emotion, your audience will see the answer to their struggle, their challenge, their obstacle. By using a story at the end of your speech, you remind your audience that you are similar to them and that you too have overcome challenges and obstacles to get to where you are.

There is a saying that goes like this: “Don’t put yourself on a pedestal, put the process.” It is this process that your audience will follow to reach their own success. Here is a format for you to use as you prepare your closing with a story:

  1. Choose a story that connects directly to your message. This is not the time to “throw in a story.” This story needs to recap the points from your speech.
  2. Keep this story succinct and structured, this is not the time to go off into tangents. This is your key moment, the moment that will either connect your audience with you are leave your audience putting yet another learning experience on a dusty shelf.
  3. Keep it simple. It is very difficult to listen to a story that is not clear and to the point. Your audience becomes restless, begins to plan where they need to be after your speech ends, and starts watching the clock.

Storytelling can be the emotional connection to any audience. Remember to use “you” focused questions within your story. Remember to practice your closing story so that it is succinct and solid. And, finally, remember to keep that story authentic. Pick a story that is close to your heart and sums up your message. You are bound to leave your audience wanting more, more of you and more of your message. If you accomplish this, congratulations, you have done your job.