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…


Make a presentation in 5 steps: Overview

Trainees sometimes ask me: “What is the most efficient way to make a presentation?” Follow these 5 steps and you will know the answer… Objective, Audience, Message, Structure, Content !


The pages linked above outline what to do at each step – follow the links and follow the instructions and you will be able to make a great presentation.

Don’t cheat on these steps. The next time someone asks you to make a presentation, just follow one at a time… Don’t go adapting previous presentations and PPT documents you have already made, start from scratch…


…and even if you prefer other ways to make your presentation, you will still need to deal with 5 basic steps. I can tell you now that the most efficient way is not opening PPT and just getting started on your visual support! Design your presentation first!

NOTE: This is not about making nice PPT documents, but building the whole presentation. PPT is referenced in the entry on building content…


If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me:

If you have comments, add them.

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





Make a presentation in 5 steps (2): Know your audience

To make a good presentation, you need to define the audience well. This post outlines what you need to know about the audience and offers some questions to ask to analyse them well.

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


Define the audience: Who am I talking to and why do they care?

The audience is the key to how you will define your message, choose structure and content and get in style. Before you move to structure and content, think about who you are talking to. Again, answer these 5 questions (write it down!):

1.       What is the audience’s situation, what do they value and what do they need (from me)?

2.       How do I define the audience in terms of hierarchy, influence and group dynamic?

3.       What is the audience’s relationship to me and what is the impact of this?

4.       Why is the audience coming to my presentation? What is their objective? What do they expect from me? (this is key to defining the “WIIFM”)

5.       What can I do to motivate them to come, stay and listen?

Follow this link to see how I answered these questions for myself when creating a presentation on “Building proactiveness” for the Kluwer Meet+Greet in Gembloux in 2010


If you are ready, move on to defining your message…

If you have questions, contact me:

If you have comments, add them!

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


Make a presentation in 5 steps (1): Objective setting

When you make a presentation, it is important to first clarify your objective. This post outlines different types of presentation objectives and give ideas on how to identify them..

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


Clarify your objective: Begin with the end in mind to know what you are working for

When asked to deliver a presentation, many people just jump straight in, open PPT and start creating slides. Those that are experts in their topics will dump everything they know into 50 slides and declare themselves ready to present. And not just the techny people – sales people do the same, as do Project Managers and corporate trainers.

Slow down and think. All time spent in this phase will not only increase your efficiency in the following phases, but also:

  • Give you a whole bunch of information to share with your audience when you actually start talking
  • Help you stay on target during both creation and the moment of presentation itself

As the British Army guys say….


In this phase, simply answer these 5 questions (Don’t cheat: Write the answers down!):

1.       Why have I been asked to present?

2.       What do I want to achieve? (Read more about presentation objectives here)

  • Will I try to inform?
  • Will I help the audience to make a decision?
  • Must I convince or persuade? Or impress?
  • Am I teaching something?

3.       How will my presentation support business targets or strategy?

4.       What personal goals do I want to achieve?

5.       What do I want the audience to know and do after my presentation?


Follow this link to see how I answered these questions for myself when creating a presentation on “Infinite Learning ©” for the Epsilon Salon in November 2010


When you have the answer to these questions, move on to defining the audience..


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…


Creation of a training concept in pharma industry

Dan nous a aidé à créer un nouveau concept au niveau de la formation médicale continue des médecins généralistes. Il s’agissait d’un programme qui était soutenu par une des plus grandes sociétés pharmaceutiques.

Sans qu’il ait une expérience dans le domaine médicale et/ou pharmaceutique, son apport a été très riche et nous a surtout permis de réfléchir ‘out of the box’.

Il est enthousiasmant, crédible et surtout fiable.

Kristof Canoot
Sales Director
Medipress Services

Speaking too fast? Tips for presentation nerves

This blog outlines the simple solutions discussed during training last week for people who need to slow down their speech a little when presenting. Fast speaking is mostly due to stress and as such it often naturally slows down a few minutes into the presentation. If that’s not the case, try some of these solutions:


Build some gaps into your speaking

The easiest way to slow down during your presentation is to stop talking! To create intonation in your presentation structure and to give you a chance to be quiet and calm down, try building in some speech-gaps. Examples of how to do this include:

Create interactivity

Ask the audience some questions and use this time to breathe, drink water and generally relax. They will be happy to get involved, and the interactivity will increase learning and recall.

Add in new media

Your presentation doesn’t have to be all you. Show a film, hand out a reference, have a flip-chart moment… Just be sure to be quiet for a while.

Use strong transitions

A transition is the moment between one part of your presentation and another. To do a good job of these transitions you need to show the audience that one part is over and another will begin. In principle, this can be done with verbal or visual signals and pace-changing activities. If you go for the verbal transtion, try the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” technique – it will help you to focus on your structure (which may calm your mind) and give you a moment to drink some water:

  • “So, we’ve seen how proactivity can have a positive impact on the organisation” (Mirror)
  • “Now we are going to see what you can do to build proactivity in your organisation” (Signal)
  • …walk to other side of room, drink water, change PPT slide (Manoeuvre)
  • “In this part of my presentation, we will see 3 best-practices for building proacti…..” (Continue presentation)


Get a helper

Some people just don’t realise that they are talking too fast (until someone tells them afterwards). To remedy this, find someone friendly that you know will be in the audience and ask them to give you a discrete sign when you start speeding too much… (The same approach can be used for time-management in presentations)


Present in a pair

You have been asked to present, but you are nervous. Why have you been asked to present? Probably not because everyone wants to see YOU present, or because they like to put YOU under pressure. The most likely reason is that someone wants to know something, get some input for a decision, hear your arguments for XYZ…. Whatever. So why do it alone? If you know you are stressed, you can always get someone to present with you. Create a strong structure and rehearse well and you will give yourself a good chance to sit back and relax during part of the presentation… …you’ll also get a good opportunity to gauge the audience’s reaction whilst your co-presenter is doing his stuff.


Chill out and believe in yourself!

The nerves are due to stress. Maybe you didn’t prepare well, maybe you don’t like to stand in front of the public, you are not convinced of your message or you had bad experiences before… The stress is due to something in you that is afraid of doing the presentation. That fear can manifest itself in many ways. In presentation skills training, we focus on building strong behaviour that will lead to a strong performance. But this doesn’t mean you need to ignore the nerves. Try one of these solutions:

  • Meditate for a few minutes prior to the presentation – try hiding in the toilets!
  • Use visualisation techniques to convince yourself you will do well (sit down, close your eyes and imagine your successful presentation in all its glory)
  • Scream (this is what my wife and I did in the car on the way to our civil wedding – it works a treat to get out the general stress and trembling voice
  • Do some decent physical exercise prior to the presentation – this can be as simple as systematically tightening and releasing different muscles in your body 1-by-1 (in the toilet again, if necessary) or maybe some real exercise (e.g. running).
  • Try hypnosis – by chance 🙂 my father @andy_steer is a hypnotist and has created a downloadable track to help with confident speaking. His site is here and the free downloadable track about confident presentations is here.


Looking for more ideas? Try this site:


And if that wasn’t enough, then come to one of my training sessions. Let me know if you are interested….

…and that, as they say in show-business, is all folks!


Hope you found something interesting here – feel free to comment.

Check out or for more learning and development resources

Learning Design Questions

During a recent meeting with Jan Laurijssen of Kluwer and one of our clients, we discussed many ideas about learning design and how to move forward when implementing learning initiatives. Part of that conversation was centered on the types of questions you should ask when approaching a potential learning issue. This blog entry is inspired by that conversation and outlines some good questions you can ask to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

This is a non-exhaustive list of questions that can be useful to consider when people ask you to “deliver training” or “make some learning”. Some are more creative than others. You should not see this as a “list of things to ask” but inspiration for your consulting… They may help to ensure that you tackle the right issues in the right way (for the right reasons):

Define the problem first

It is important to begin with the end in mind and put first things first. We need first to be sure what we are working towards and where we are at present. Some interesting questions:

  • What are we trying to solve?
  • What evidence is there of an “issue” in the organisation? How did you detect the problem? How is business not going as it should do? How do you know some competence is missing? Who says so?
  • What is a concrete example of how things are going wrong today? And what is the business result of this?
  • What culture/organisational/process issues are causing difficulty here?
  • What competences are missing (knowledge, skills, attitude)?
  • How far does this problem reach? Who is impacted?
  • What are the priority issues? What are the deadlines?
  • Read about Impact Mapping and Backwards Planning here (Don Clark)

Be sure learning is the answer

Some learning professionals jump too quickly into tailoring a package to solve the issue. But not all issues are learning issues. Some interesting questions:

  • Why do you think this is a learning issue?
  • What experience suggests that learning will solve this?
  • If learning was not the answer, what would be?
  • Is this really about training? Or something else?
  • What people or processes are not working as they should? Why would learning by the answer?
  • How could better communication improve the situation?
  • What knowledge, skills or attitude do you seek to improve with learning?
  • 2 more articles on whether or not training is the answer: The Experience Factor and Why training fails and when training works, by Cheri Baker (@cheribaker)

Think about who you are dealing with

If you are going to design a learning initiative, it is important to think carefully about your people before creating anything. Ask some good questions:

  • Who needs to learn?
  • How many people will be involved?
  • Who are the stakeholders and what do they need from learning?
  • How do the (future) participants feel about the problem/current performance?
  • What talents/competences/passions/convictions do future participants have? How will these help or hinder learning?
  • How would you describe the style of the participants?
  • What is their experience and background?
  • What would they enjoy/dislike from a learning solution?
  • What is the current situation of those that learn? Are there any obvious opportunities or threats for learning?

Fix some real learning objectives

To be successful in both implementation and measurement of the learning solution, you need to have quality goals to work towards. Consider the following:

  • What would be the optimal “end-state”?
  • What should participants know or be able to do after the learning and under what conditions?
  • How do you expect participants to change after learning, either in behaviour or attitude?
  • What will “being competent” look like after learning?
  • What other elements do we want to measure? (eg: Reaction to learning)
  • How will we measure effective behaviour/competence/attitude before and after learning? And how will these measures include both quantitative and qualitative elements?
  • How will we measure business results before and after learning?
  • Check out Don Clark’s page on performance measures
  • In what timescale is change expected?
  • How will the learning provider, participant and n+1 provide feedback before, during and after learning?
  • What could be a good slogan for the learning initiative?
  • Check out Don Clark’s site for more ideas on fixing learning objectives

Design a learning solution

Learning is more than training and training does not (necessarily) imply learning. Don’t jump straight into a classical training solution before thinking about some of these questions:

  • What is the solution best suited to this problem and these people?
  • What resources are available (budget, facilities, time)?
  • How will we represent all stakeholders in the learning solution?
  • How will you get the relevant sponsors involved?
  • How and what will we communicate?
  • What methods are available? Follow this link to read about Choosing Delivery Systems.. (Don Clark)
  • Through what phases should learning move? What order should things happen in?
  • What is the best way to ensure learning is linked to reality?
  • How can we make the process truly authentic? How will we build in the right context?
  • When and where should learning take place?
  • How will we ensure transfer to the workplace? How will we get the learners’ managers involved?
  • Who can help facilitate or deliver this initiative?What are the obstacles to transferring learning to the workplace and how will we overcome them?
  • Who is competent and available to design and deliver the learning solution?
  • Who will own the learning process and what will their input be during design and implementation?
  • How can we ensure participant buy-in to the problem and learning process?
  • How will you follow-up on learners (if required) to be sure they do what you ask them to do?
  • What is the minimum effective dose of learning that can get the job done?
  • What are the best materials, methods and channels to use? How will people access these?
  • What methods are we strong in using?
  • What deliverables should be achieved at which moments?
  • How can we best profit from available technology and learning tools?
  • How can we enhance formal learning with tools like social media?
  • What is the most efficient way to deliver knowledge?
  • What can learners do by themselves and what do they need help with?
  • How can we leverage or capture informal social learning before and after a formal learning initiative?
  • What can we do to get closer to the Infinite Learning © vision?
  • What are obstacles to success in the learning process?

If you have comments and other interesting questions to note, please add them to this blog – looking forward to hearing from you!

Implementing a Competence Mgt System

J’ai collaboré avec Dan Steer dans le cadre de la conception d’un CMS (« Competence Management System »). Dan est intervenu comme consultant externe, et expert en CMS.

Dan allie une très bonne capacité d’analyse et de réflexion, avec un talent inné pour animer des brainstormings créatifs, il a véritablement une double casquette de consultant et de formateur. Il dispose d’une grande flexibilité
mentale et d’un bon talent créatif, qui lui ont permis d’apporter de la valeur ajoutée concrète dans le projet.

Je re-choisirais Dan sans hésiter pour un projet du même style.

Didier De Greef
Operations Manager

8 ways to make group decisions

There are lots of different ways to make decisions. This post outlines several.


Should we cancel the project? What should the team implement to solve absenteeism issues? Which DVD should we hire? What time should we run the meeting? How will we decide which new processes to implement? Where should we hold the team event? How will we deal with MarComms in 2012? What are the strategic priorities?

For all these questions, we need to identify solutions. With a good problem solving method, some brainstorming or spontaneous creativity we can come up with ideas. But how to decide?

Decision making is an integral part of leadership (even if the leader does not decide) and as such, how decisions will be made is something to consider in detail. When leaders set up the modus-operandi for teamwork, projects, meetings … defining how decisions will be made should be included.


Here are a few ways you might make decisions in a group


One person decides

  • This is usually the leader or manager or another person with responsibility. I have discovered in my family that it can be fun to delegate decision making to different family members at different moments. You get some interesting results..


Democratic (majority) decision

  • Everyone votes and the majority wins. Anything over 50% = majority. A variation on this is the advance-majority decision which states that prior to voting, the % majority required to pass the decision must be defined. What is interesting here is to think about who decides this % and how (the group or one person?).


Unanimous decisions

  • Everyone has to agree on a given solution/proposition. When the unanimous decision does not come quickly, groups face the dilemma of having to dedicate more time than they hoped to make the decision or to have to change the decision making process. The 2nd option can lead to conflict and dissatisfaction, especially if only a small number of people in the group were “against” the majority.



  • In this option, you question the decision itself and changing it until everyone is happy with the new outcome. Imagine a choice between options A and B. In the compromise situation, we would either look for a merge of A and B or collaborate to create a new option (C). Read about the Thomas Kilman Indicator for more ideas on the difference between the will to compromise or collaborate.



  • Involves accepting a decision provided no-one objects. This usually involves one person (the leader) saying: “If no-one disagrees, we will….” Best hope those who disagree dare to speak up!



  • Putting off the decision until later might be the best decision right now. It could be done because you don’t have the time, people or expertise to deal with the decision at this moment. Does it have to be decided now?


Not deciding

  • Maybe you will just ignore the decision and see what happens


The final option

  • …works just fine for me when the stakes are low and the choice seems quite random: Flip a coin!



Advice for setting up decision making processes?

Avoid indecision or “plop decisions” (nothing is decided, but because we move to the next item, people think it was decided) by doing the following:

  • Create clarity in the decision making process before anything is on the table to be decided
  • Clarify the options well when making choices
  • Let everyone speak – this can help to create motivation (even if one person only decides)
  • Don’t take too long to decide – it is the author’s opinion that it is better to put the decision on-hold and come back to it (like doing crosswords!) than get caught up in decision making for too long – the latter drains energy and does not improve effectiveness
  • Be creative!


If you are interested in leadership issues, discussion and resources, come and join the “Leadership Foundation” course on LinkedIn.

Follow me on , subscribe to this blog

…or leave a comment