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Presenters Must Prepare Like Orchestra Conductors (Part 2)

By August 23, 2008April 24th, 2022No Comments
audience of executives sitting in a training presentation, engaged and smiling at the presenter

Article Summary:  [Part 2 of 2]   By a show of hands, who likes public speaking? A few hands go up. OK, who likes attending a PowerPoint presentation? Again, a few of you. Both responses are what you would expect, right? In this column and the previous one, I show you the steps to change both answers to a loud and resounding “Yes!” It is time to tell your great story — a story that melds passion with compelling business messages. A compelling presentation inspires your audience with your belief in your organization and enables you to confidently give your presentation anywhere and anytime–conferences, informal gatherings, all-hands meetings, board meetings, sharing of scientific papers, and so forth. A compelling story or compelling story with data, drives business results:  it increases membership, reduces client turnover, leads to higher staff retention, promotes enduring profits, helps secure government funding, and inspires action in your audiences.

Presenters Must Prepare Like Orchestra Conductors (Part 2)

Copyright © 2008, Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
August 2008

[This is the second in a two-part series of articles. Part 1 is Drop the Dry Presentation, Tell a Compelling Story]

As shared in my previous column, designing and delivering a winning presentation takes planning and practice. We developed an eight-step process offering a proven framework for creating inspiring content, engaging visuals, and messages that win more business.

To recap, the eight steps are:

  1. Know your goals
  2. Know your target audience
  3. Develop a compelling message
  4. Identify your call-to-action
  5. Anticipate key questions
  6. Develop compelling talking points
  7. Add supporting content and visuals
  8. Deliver your great business story

We previously covered steps 1 through 3 in Drop the Dry Presentation, Tell a Compelling Story. Let us explore steps 4 through 8.

Great presenters are like great orchestra conductors — each piece must fit together and be synchronized.

4. Identify Your Call-to-Action

Great presenters are like great orchestra conductors — each piece must fit together and be synchronized.

A specific call-to-action synchronizes the presentation. The call-to-action is what you want your audience to do after the presentation. Below are some examples.

  • For a sales presentation:  Purchase our product
  • For human resources training:  Practice the new skills weekly
  • For management:  Choose an alternative or option
  • For government:  Select one system for beta test
  • For marketing:  Gather more information to validate our assumptions.

5. Anticipate Key Questions

It is now time to anticipate the questions your audience will ask. Knowing you are prepared goes a long way to reducing stress and impressing your audience. Preempt the tough questions by incorporating as many answers as possible into your presentation.

Be a master at Q&A by testing your presentation in front of a practice audience. Count on them for frank and constructive suggestions.

6. Develop Compelling Talking Points

Next, develop compelling talking points to complement your Better Tomorrow Message™ developed in step 3. Each of these points should have their own compelling mini headline and offer clear benefits.

7. Add Supporting Content and Visuals

How much time you should devote to each part of a presentation? A rule of thumb is:

  • Opening:  5 percent
  • Talking Points: 80 percent
  • Closing: 5 percent
  • Q&A: 10 percent

The first part of Step 7 is to develop the details and benefits for the talking points.

The best way to design a presentation is on paper.

The best way to design a presentation is on paper. Use blank paper without lines or use large stickies. PowerPoint forces you to think linearly while the best public speakers think creatively and sometimes randomly.

After developing the supporting information, ensure slide headlines are short and engaging. Think of these as supporting Better Tomorrow Messages TM.

When you design the visuals, synchronize the colors in your presentation to your organization’s style guide or to the colors on your web site. Balance the use of text, pictures, graphics, and charts.

To make your presentation more impressive, replace text, tables, and graphs with professionally looking images. The images should tell your story through the visuals.

For example, replace a typical Microsoft Excel line chart with a large arrow pointing upward and the annual values to the right of the arrow in a column. There are hundreds of options for shape, size, text, font, colors, images, headlines, messages, and metaphors.

Use photography and images your audience can easily relate to and diagrams and charts they can easily understand.

For photography, there are three options.

  1. Take your own photos with a mobile device or camera
  2. Purchase a photo from a stock photography site like, Deposit Photos, and iStock Photography
  3. Hire a professional photographer

8. Deliver Your Great Business Story

With your title, talking points and imagery, create an inspiring and attention-getting opening. Your opening could be a personal story, an anecdote, a quote from a relevant industry expert, high-impact facts and statistics, or a well-told joke that readily supports your main message.

After developing your opening, create a powerful and memorable closing.

Last, practice, practice, practice. Experience shows you should practice the complete presentation five times. The first two are for timing and identifying the gaps. The third is for smoothing out the transitions, the fourth for overall polish, and the fifth is for the ultimate in confidence. The fifth rehearsal ensures you are ready. Timing is perfect, Q&A is a slam-dunk, transitions are smooth, etc. All to ensure you are ready to deliver an inspiring presentation to your audience.

It is your responsibility to educate, entertain, and inspire your audience. If you want to be compelling and deliver a presentation that generates real business results, follow these proven steps.

Your audience will feel your passion, readily understand your messages, be informed about key concepts, and make business decisions that favor your organization.

Interested in improving (dramatically) your public speaking, presentation, storytelling, or data storytelling skills?


  • Everyone has a Story to Tell, and You Need One Too  (read)
  • Say What you Want, Say it in Under 30 Seconds  (read)
  • Step Away from the Urn, and Other Networking Tips   (read)
  • Keeping it Real – Learn to Heed Your Authentic Voice  (read)
  • Getting to Yes – Make Body Language Work for You  (read)
  • Drop the Dry Presentation, Tell a Compelling Story  (Part 1)
  • Presenters Must Prepare Like Orchestra Conductors  (Part 2) (this article)
  • Great Leaders Know How to Put their Words to Work  (read)

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#chiefstoryteller #publicspeaking #presentation #leadership #communication

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.