Make a presentation in 5 steps (3): Define your message

A well defined message is the heart of a good presentation. This post outlines how to formulate a good presentation message.

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Create a strong message: Link your objective to the audience and create a message with impact that the audience will recall

Many of the people I meet in training have trouble defining their message… …yet they seem upset and confused that the audience doesn’t understand and can’t remember their point!

Other people tell me that you can’t always define your point in one message. Recently, a training participant told me of a university professor who’s lecture was so complex it could not be summarised into one message – I believe this an indicator of one of the following things:

  • He didn’t have enough clarity to put things together into a concise message
  • He had too many messages
  • His presentation was not well structured (more on presentation structure here)


To improve understanding and to avoid the audience having to figure everything out for themselves *, we need to define a strong message. By doing this, we will also create long lasting impact and recall of our message.

* more on this later when we see the Pyramid Principle in presentation structure


When I ask people in Presentation Skills training what is their message, I get a lot of replies like this:

  • It’s about call-centres and how they work
  • I’m talking about pro-activeness in the workplace

..these are not messages, but subjects!


So I ask them: “So what is your point?” and they answer:

  • I want to show how our company helps calls to arrive in a call-centre
  • I want people to understand that pro-activeness is important

…these are not messages, but purposes/objectives!


So I ask again: “And what is your point?” :

  • I want to sell our services
  • I want people to take action

…again, more objectives (although admittedly more commercial/action driven)


A message is the thing you want to say, the thing you want your audience to understand during and following your presentation. If you did a good job of defining your objectives, you have probably already thought about this.

So I ask again and finally I get answers like these:

  • Our company can help you to install complete contact centre solutions
  • If you create flow in the organisation, people will be more likely to become pro-active

…now we have some messages! These are messages the audience will be able to understand and recall easily after the presentation. These messages are also now a road-map for creation of presentation structure.


To help you create a strong message, answers these 5 questions (write down your answers!):

  1. What is your point? Wat are you trying to say?
  2. If someone asked an audience member after your presentation “So, what did he say?” what should the audience member reply?
  3. What must the audience remember after your presentation?
  4. If you have several points to make, what is umbrella message that brings them all together?
  5. How can you formulate the above answers into 1 phrase, that is short, punchy and easy to remember?


If you answer these 5 questions, you will have something easy to understand, that has a chance of impact and lasting recall and that will help you to develop your presentation structure. Here are some examples of strong messages that we will revisit when we learn about presentation structure:

  • Use story-telling to create imagination, understanding and influence
  • Company X has grown in 10 years to become a leading provider of IT solutions
  • Build effective presentation in 5 steps
  • If you want to understand people, you need to listen to them


Hope this helped!

Now let’s see how to implement the diamond presentation structure


If you have questions, contact me:

If you have comments, add them!

And if you want more ideas, follow me on Twitter or subscribe to this blog by entering your email address above/right…


Published by Dan Steer

For the last 17 years, I have been helping businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through delivery of tailor-made learning and development initiatives. Most of the time, I deliver training, coach individuals, facilitate brainstorming sessions, round-table meetings and workshops. As a consultant, I help my clients to promote and profit from the infinite learning opportunities within and without their own organisation, drawing on my L+D management experience, strategic approach and creativity, As a speaker, I inspire through story, humour and pertinent little bits of theory. I believe that the world would be a better place if people were happily working on their mission with competence and alignment to personal values. As a freelance worker since 2008, I have helped more than 11000 individuals to improve their presentation, communication, commercial, leadership and negotiation skills. I confront people with their own behaviour and convictions, facilitating and giving pertinent feedback and clear ideas on where to continue good work and improve. I seek to satisfy my clients with creative and to-the-point solutions… …and I make music, but no-one pays me much for it yet :-) First single here:

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  1. Venture Capitalist from Gimv @stevencop underlined in Trends (17th March: “Six questions à se poser en phase de croissance”) the importance of simple messages for investors, clients and the board of administration:

    « Vous devez pouvoir résumer l’essentiel de votre entreprise en une ou deux minutes. N’oubliez pas que les investisseurs ne sont généralement pas des experts dans votre domaine. Il en va de même pour la présentation de l’entreprise sur son site web. Quelle que soit la complexité du sujet, une bonne équipe de managers doit pouvoir transmettre son message d’une façon simple. »

    If you are a Trends subscription member, read the whole article here:

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