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Craft a Great Presentation in 4 Straightforward Steps

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Thursday, October 4, 2018
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Whether you are developing a speech to pitch an idea to your colleagues or to audition for TEDMED to appear on a panel of healthcare experts, try Spoken with Authority's proven outline method: the Sandwich Structure.

We developed this structure to help speakers craft a clear message and compelling content without reading word-for-word from a script. By using the Sandwich Structure, you will save time developing your content and have more time to rehearse your delivery. As a result, you will appear more confident—you’ll need only to glance at your notes on occasion. And, you also will feel more comfortable because you’ll be able to easily find your place as you transition from one idea to the next.

Ready to craft an outline for a more dynamic presentation? Check out our free online outline tool. You will notice that it is:

  • Limited to one page so you don’t write out your entire presentation and read it robotically.
  • Presented in landscape format so you can easily find your main points—the first point is always on the left and the last is always on the right, no matter how long or short your talk is.
  • Partitioned at the top and bottom to highlight your introduction and conclusion, so you start and end on a strong note.
  • Formatted to draw attention to the prompts for preview, review, and transitions to remind you to be explicit about your speech structure.

Here are four steps to craft your presentation using our proven Sandwich Structure method and online tool, which I will discuss during our webcast on November 9, 2018:

1. Identify your central idea.
Many presentations go wrong because the speaker isn’t clear about the purpose of the speech. Is it primarily to inform or persuade the audience? About what issue, or to take what action? Research your audience and speaking situation to develop a central idea that is realistic given the circumstances and time constraints of your presentation. Also, work to narrow your topic as much as possible; listeners will get more value from a presentation that offers depth on a targeted topic than a shallow dive on a broader one. On the outline, write a phrase or sentence that captures your central idea. It should be specific and succinct.

2. Support your central idea with main and supporting points.
Select two or three main points to support your central idea. For a longer presentation, like a medical training program, you may have four or even five main points. If you do, use a mnemonic device to help your listeners remember those main points. For short presentations or those where audience members are not taking notes, strive to limit to just two or three main points.

Structure your main points in a logical and memorable way. Talking about a process? Do it chronologically. Discussing different locations or aspects of a healthcare provider? Do it geographically or spatially. Pitching a plan? Do it topically by explaining the results you had in three case studies. Improving a healthcare system? Do it by cataloguing problems and then offering solutions.

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Enter a word or phrase on your Sandwich Structure for each of your main points, then add subpoints to flesh out stories and data you will need to share to support each of them.

3. Sandwich the body of your speech with a compelling introduction and conclusion.
Find an interesting anecdote, compelling example, startling fact or statistic, memorable quotation from a luminary in the medical field, thought-provoking question, or relevant humor to open your presentation. Write the first line or two out word for word in the text box at the top of the outline. Then, craft a word-for-word conclusion that concretely links your clincher to the attention-getting device you opened with. Again, aim for a sentence or two that you carefully wordsmith.

Note: If you plan to use slides, you should develop them now. Base them on your Sandwich Structure, but do not write out your talking points on the slides (that’s what the Sandwich Structure is for). Use slides to highlight your central idea, main points, and speech structure as well as to display visual information that helps listeners understand data or remember stories.

4. Print your outline and rehearse it.
Now that you have a thoughtful, clearly crafted outline that took less time to prepare, turn your focus to practice. Print your Sandwich Structure, remembering to orient the paper horizontally so it all fits on one sheet of paper. Using the Sandwich Structure as your speaking notes, go through your presentation aloud several times—ideally, six times—so that you can deliver it smoothly and feel less nervous.

If you are using slides, rehearse with both the outline and slides from the start. You will find that as you gain fluidity with the material, you will likely use your outline less and be able to recall your next point by looking at the relevant slide.

Aim to memorize the line or two you write in both the introduction and conclusion so you can deliver them on autopilot. If you get especially nervous and blank out on your lines, you can always refer to your outline and read the content off your one-pager.

Crafting and delivering a dynamic presentation for your colleagues or for listeners at TEDMED doesn’t have to be overwhelming or out-of-reach for busy healthcare professionals. Just follow these four straightforward steps. Let’s continue this chat during my upcoming webcast!

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About the Author
Christine Clapp is the author of Presenting at Work: A Guide to Public Speaking in Professional Contexts and the president of Spoken with Authority, a Washington, D.C.-based presentation skills consultancy that includes a team of six expert coaches. Through training programs and coaching engagements, Christine and her team help professionals at law firms, corporations, associations, and nonprofit organizations build the confidence to connect and the capacity to lead.

Christine holds two degrees in communication: a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. She also taught public speaking to undergraduate and graduate students at The George Washington University for 13 years.
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