By Paola Pascual on Jan 11, 2022 6:33:00 PM
Have you ever seen a presentation at work and, at the end, wondered: "So, what whas the main idea here?" More often than not, an idea makes sense in our head, but when we try to express it, we're end up being all over the place.
Some people get overwhelmed when they need to prepare a presentation in English (especially if they are not native-English speakers) –not really because they don't know what to say, but rather because they have loads knowledge and they don’t have time to convey everything. The thing is - you don’t need to convey everything. Our goal today is o learn how to extract the main idea of your presentation and bring your message across. What information should you include? What can you leave out? How should you organize your presentation so that it is clear?
How To Bring Across Your Main Idea
Sharpening your presentation skills starts with being able to get across the key message. Here's how you can do it in 6 steps.
1) Start with a brain dump
First, write down what you think you need to present. Don’t worry about how nice it will look later and jot down all your ideas on a piece of paper –this is called a brain dump. For that, I usually use post-it notes and write the major beats or plot points of my talk. These are like the major concept or ideas I want to convey, and you can write as many as you like.
2) Think of your audience
Think of the specific audience that you will be talking to. How much do they need to know? What are their goals and interests? What should you highlight? Remember that the presentation should be about them, not about you!
Here’s an example of how to tailor your message to the audience:
- EXAMPLE 1 (the CTO is talking to one of the developers): "The list for that query is populated manually by the server from users, and we are not able to determine that engagement list from such a complex expression."
- EXAMPLE 2 (she is talking to an Account Manager): "You will need to set her status manually."
YOUR TURN! Think about a specific presentation you gave in the past and briefly describe your audience (background, goals, interests…).
3) Decide your WHAT, WHY, NEXT
The next –and arguably the most important– step is to think of our WHAT, WHY, NEXT.
- WHAT is your presentation about? This refers to your key message.
- WHY should they listen to you? What is the purpose of this presentation and why could it not be an email instead? What will you offer them that can not be read online?
- What should happen NEXT? Decide the action that should happen after the presentation (e.g. they need to reply to an email, they need to write a report, you will send them the materials…).
Remember! Every presentation or talk you give should have its WHAT, WHY, NEXT.
YOUR TURN! Go back to the same presentation you gave in the past and briefly describe your WHAT, WHY, and NEXT.
4) Filter out unnecessary information
Once you've completed the first three steps, get rid of all the information that is not essencial for your presentation. One of the most effective ways to bring across your main idea is to be as concise as possible. In a world where everyone is pressed for time, your audience will be much more ready to listen if you make it easy for them.
- What’s the main point I want to get across?
- Does this answer What, Why, and Next?
- Is this all relevant to my audience?
- Are there any small details, statistics or numbers that can be accessed later?
- Will they understand all these words?
5) Apply the Rule of Three
Once you have all of this, go back to your brain dump and try to organize your presentation in groups of three. This is called the “Rule of three”, a writing principle that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. You will see it not only in literature (Three Little Pigs or the Three Musketeers), but also in marketing (Just do it, i’m lovin’ it, See what’s next). Try to organize your information in groups of three to make it more memorable.
6) Add recaps
Last but not least, make sure you include recaps throughout your presentation. These are small summaries repeating your main idea. Try to sum up your key message by both repeating the same message and paraphrasing your idea with different words (What The Heck Is Paraphrasing?).
This article works as supporting material for our podcast episode 34. You can read the transcript below. Make sure you check out all our other Talaera Talks episodes and subscribe to get new episode alerts.
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Talaera Talks - Transcript Episode 34
If you are learning English, including new English words and expressions will help you with effective communication. Remember to check out our other episodes on how to make small talk, how to deliver engaging presentations, how to speak English fluently, and many more: visit the podcast website. Listen to it on your favorite platform.
Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non-native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co-hosting this show with Simon. In this podcast, we're going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show!
Hello, and Happy New Year! I hope you're having a great start to your 2022. It's great to be back here talking to you once again with this first episode of the year. And today I have a new topic inspired by some of the most tedious presentations I've seen in the past. Not really here at Talaera, but at previous jobs.
And this, I would like to start by asking you a question. And that is, have you ever seen a presentation at work and at the end wondered: "Okay, so what was the main idea here?" And it really happens quite often that, you know, an idea makes sense in your head, when you try to express it, you just end up being all over the place. And I think that some people get overwhelmed when they need to prepare a presentation in English, especially, especially if they're not native English speakers. But I think this happens to everyone. And it's not really because they don't know what to say. But rather, because they have loads of knowledge and they just don't know how to convey everything. But the thing is, you really don't need to convey everything.
So our goal today is to learn how to extract the main idea of your presentation. It could also work for any talk you give, and and help you bring your message across and really understand, okay, what information should I include? Or is there anything I can leave out? How should you organize your presentation so that it's clear? So that's a bit our goal today, to really learn how to bring across your main idea.
And the first step is to start with a brain dump. So what you have to do is, write down what you think you need to present. And really don't worry about how nice it would look later. And just express your ideas on a piece of paper. This is called a brain dump. For that I usually what works for me is I usually use post-it notes, these yellow ones, you know, that are sticky. And I write the major beats or like the plot points of my talk. And these are like the major concepts or ideas I want to convey. And I end up writing quite a lot. But that's okay, you can write as many as you like for this first step. So number one was to write a brain or to start with a brain dump.
The second step is to think of your audience. I know this always comes up think of your audience. But what does that even mean? So here, what I would love for you to do is to think of the specific people that you will be talking to, and really ask yourself, How much do they need to know? And what are their goals and interests? And what should you highlight to make it interesting to them. And remember that the presentation, any presentation should be about them not about you, even when you're talking about yourself, it should almost feel like you're making it all about them. And, and so here's an example of how you can tailor your message to your audience. So in the first example that I'm going to tell you, the CTO is talking to one of the developers, and it could sound something like this: "The list for that query is populated manually by the server from users, and we are not able to determine that engagement list from such a complex expression". If you didn't understand anything, I'm with you. I also didn't understand most of what I just said. But it was because the CTO, a technical person, was talking to a developer, another technical person. Now in this second example that I'm going to give you, she –the CTO– is talking to an Account Manager. And then she could say something like, and this is the same message just adopted to a different person is: "You will need to set her status manually". They're talking about an app or some software, and they just need to set the status manually. So that's a big difference, right? Alright, so we have the brain dump, we know our audience.
The next step, and I would say arguably the most important one, is to think of your WHAT, WHY, NEXT. We might have talked about this in the past, but I cannot highlight enough how important it is. The WHAT, WHY, NEXT of your presentation is the gist of it. So WHAT is your presentation about? This refers to your key message. WHY should they listen to you? And when I ask my students, why should they listen to you? Sometimes they just get a little bit confused, and they don't know what to say. So think about what is the purpose of this presentation? And Why could it not be an email instead? Or what will you offer that cannot be read online? Right. So what, why, and what should happen NEXT? Decide the action that should happen after your presentation. For example, do they need to reply to an email to the need to write a report? Will you send them the materials? What is going to happen next? Right. So what is your presentation about? Why should they listen to you and what should happen next, this is all information still for yourself for yourself.
Now, step four, is to filter out unnecessary information. Once you've completed the first three steps that we just talked about, get rid of all the information that is not essential for your presentation. And really, this is one of the most effective ways to bring across your main idea, be as concise as possible. And I wonder if you agree, but I think that in a world where everyone is so pressed for time, we're so busy all the time, your audience will just be much more ready to listen, if you make it easy for them. So for that, you can ask yourself, Okay, what is the main point I want to get across? Does this answer my walk by next? Is this all relevant to my audience? Are there any small details like statistics or, or numbers that can be accessed later? And then another important question to ask yourself is, Will they understand all these words, so not only will you need to filter out unnecessary information, you also need to make the information accessible to them, make it easy use easy words and simple vocabulary.
Rule number three, and we're almost done here is to apply the rule of three. So once you have all of this, go back to the first step, go back to your brain dump, and try to organize your presentation in groups of three. Now, the rule of three, I think we've talked about this in the past, but I really, really like it. It it's like a writing principle that suggests that a trio of events, like three things, or like three characters, is just more memorable. It's, it's more funny, it's it's satisfying, it's more effective than other numbers. And you can see it not only in literature, but like the three little pigs or like the Three Musketeers. But you could also see it in marketing, like like, Just do it. I'm loving it from McDonald's or see what's next from Netflix. So what you can do for a presentation is try to organize all of it, all those post it notes that you had into groups of three, to make it more memorable.
And the last step, really, last but not least, make sure you include recaps throughout your presentation, or a memory span. It's not getting any better. And we just need to hear things over and over again, more than what we think actually. So try to add small summaries repeating your main idea that is like try to sum up your key message. And you can use a combination of both repeating the same message using the same words and paraphrasing your idea like using different words, these works really well.
So remember, you want to get across your main idea. Start with a brain dump. Use sticky notes to add the main or like the major concepts or ideas that you want to convey. Think of your audience how much do they need to know what are their interests? What should you highlight? Number three, decide your word why next? What is your presentation about? Why should they listen to you and what should happen next? Number four, filter out unnecessary information. Keep it as short as possible. They will really thank you later and and make sure that all the words are accessible to everyone that you're not using too many technical terms if your audience is not really technical or not, not all of them. I'd like the rule of three if you can use just resections. That's much better than adding 10 sections. So three ideas, three sections, three main points, just much, much easier to remember. And then add recaps, which is exactly what I was doing right there. And try to use it.
Go to our blog to read the transcript and some examples. And I'm going to add some images as well to make it easier. And leave us a comment telling us what you think of this structure and if it's worked, if you have your own personal tips, and what you would like to hear about next. All right, I think that's everything I wanted to share with you today. Hope you enjoy it, and I'll talk to you soon.
And that's all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it, and remember to subscribe to Talaera Talks. We'll be back soon with more! And visit our website at https://talaera.com for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning!