“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.”

Groucho Marx

iStock_000004289321SmallGroucho Marx may have been a famously funny person but his technique would not do you any favours in a presentation. The most common mistake presenters make is to tell the story because it is interesting for them and they quite forget to make it relevant and interesting for the audience. In our view, there are four key elements to incorporate into your early presentation planning to make sure your story ultimately resonates thoroughly with the audience.


1. Analyse the target audience

  • Ask yourself, “Who are they?” and look at demographics, job titles, age, expertise etc.
  • Ask yourself, “What motivates them?” and think about their needs and expectations.
  • Ask yourself, “Which questions will they want to have answered in relation to the topic?” and decide which answers must be incorporated into the presentation.

2. Know what you want to achieve

  • What do you want your audience to do, say, think or feel afterwards as a result of your presentation?
  • If you could only have ONE key message for presentation and that the audience should remember, what would that be?
  • What else does the audience need to know from you in order for the key message to make sense to them?

3. Write the story in brief

  • Choose a structure that works well in conjunction with the topic and goal (i.e. are you informing, convincing, recommending etc…)
  • Give labels to the various blocks of the structure (i.e. situation, problem, solution, benefits), matching them up the blocks with the questions you think the audience will want to have answered.
  • Decide what the purpose of each block should be and tell the story in brief using a series of connected main messages – it can help to think of the main messages as headlines for the slides.

4. Match the visual to the message

  • Ask yourself, “What do I want / need to communicate?”  to achieve the purpose of each block – a rough guideline is one slide per structural block*.
  • Look at your main messages and ask yourself, “Which visual approach does this best FOR THE AUDIENCE”
  • Produce a storyboard of rough sketches and ideas for the presentation and check that it holds together.


* Sometimes it may take more than one slide per structural block especially for more complex topics. Nonetheless, each slide should have only ONE main message.


Preparing to address the needs of your audience is Tip Number 32 in the book 52 Brilliant Communication Tips .