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How to Write the Body of a Presentation

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The body is the part of the presentation between your introduction and your conclusion. It's the longest part of the presentation, and its purpose is to get your key points across. When you're preparing the body of your presentation, you have two main tasks: First you determine the key points you want to make, and then you organize the sequence of these points. Here are some effective ways to determine the order or sequence of your body:

  • Problem to solution: In this sequence, you first describe the problem. Then you give the recommended solution, emphasizing how it helps correct the problem.

  • Chronological: This sequence explains a series of events from past to present. It follows the element of time and moves the audience from event to event up to current times. You want to make the dates of the events stand out clearly so that the audience is not confused as to what occurred when.

  • Past problem to future solution: In this sequence, you describe how things once were and how they need to be in the future. You use this sequence to recommend a new direction or course of action and to highlight how the future will be different from and better than what once was — the success to aim for. Sometimes this technique is also used to highlight the dangers of staying with the status quo and describe what will happen in the future if no changes are made now.

  • General to specific: This type of presentation flows from general information to a few key points explained in detail. Sometimes it works by starting with a main idea and then detailing how to make the main idea work.

  • Less important to most critical: This presentation builds to a climax. Each piece of information or topic serves as background for the one that comes next, and the importance of each subsequent topic gets greater and greater, right up to your climactic conclusion.

  • Logical topic flow: Sometimes the various topics in a presentation just go in a certain order that makes the most sense. Presentations that center around processes (how to do something) work well this way, taking people through each step in the process.

  • Benefits and features: Benefits are the gains to be made or the things that are good about your idea, product, or service. Features are how the idea, product, or service works. Benefits are the highlights; features are the details that support the benefits.

    Sometimes you want to cover all the benefits first and then explain the features; sometimes you want to go vice versa. Sometimes you want to go one at a time, describing each feature and the benefits it brings. Go with the order that works best for your subject and stick to it throughout the body of your presentation. When you do, the audience sees what's important and gets enough information to understand why.

  • Persuasive flow: Some presentations try to persuade others to a point of view or convince them to take action. Here are three ways to organize a presentation when persuasion is your primary purpose:

    • In a sales presentation in which you want the customer to decide to buy what you have to offer, describe features and then highlight their benefits to the customer.

    • When you're making recommendations to solve a critical problem, give the background of the issue first and then highlight what needs to happen and why.

    • When you're convincing people to support a new process, provide the idea followed by its benefits and your recommendation for next steps.

Organizing a sequence to your presentation helps give it a smooth flow. Start by determining the key points or topics you want to cover. After you determine these key points, think of the supporting data you need for each point and any relevant stories and examples that can help.

Give highlights with supporting points, but avoid overloading your presentation with too many details. Also, speak in the positive so that you're using language in the best way possible to get your message across.

[Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Wesley Thornberry]
Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Wesley Thornberry


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