How You Can Make Better Presentations: Follow My First Grader's Advice

Kara Powell | Nov 8, 2012

Every day my first grade daughter shows me the work she's done at school. Recently she's learning how to write stories. Her exercises invite her to come up with a "beginning, middle, and end". (Last night's story featured a rat; don't ask me any more details; I admit my mind was wandering a bit.)

Jessica's not alone in working on a "beginning, middle, and end". According to a recent Harvard Business Review blog post by Nancy Duarte, that's a good formula for winning presentations.

Duarte recommends that the beginning set up the tension between "what is" and "what could be". It is during this first phase that you show the gap between the real and the ideal, thereby peaking your audience's interest.

The middle continues to explore this tension through a series of contrasts between "what is" and "what could be", getting more and more specific with ideas for how to bridge the gap between the real and the ideal.

The conclusion creates a new sense of "bliss" with a clear, compelling "call to action".

Obviously, this formula won't work with every presentation. For those of us whose presentations largely revolve around Scripture, we don't want to force the text to follow a formula.

But I do think there's something powerful about this paradigm because it:

  • creates tension, thereby capturing the interest of the audience
  • gives vision for the future
  • provide specific action steps without a laborious list

What else have you done that's been helpful in improving your presentations?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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