Go with the Flow – How to Organize Your Technical Presentation to Get Business Results – Part 3 – Chunking by the Numbers Structure
One summer while in college, I waitressed during the graveyard shift at the Truck Stop Cafe in Jefferson, Iowa. One night, around 3 AM, I heard a commotion and spun around to see two guys in a rope-a-dope hold. From the body language of those around them, I could tell one of them had taken a swing at the other. One man was dressed in a softball uniform, no doubt coming to the Truck Stop for food to absorb the beer from the after-the-game trip to one of the local taverns. The other was dressed in a suit and tie apparently coming from a wedding with an open bar.
In my deepest, most serious 20-year-old voice I bellowed at the brawlers, KNOCK IT OFF OR I’M CALLING THE COPS! I stomped across the restaurant with all 5′ 3″ of my continence and my stern, I’m-not-kidding-around face. The two men separated.
The party in the baseball uniforms had just finished their meal and mumbling under their breaths, made their way to the other side of the restaurant and the cash register to settle up and leave the Truck Stop. Being the only one working out front in the restaurant that night, I also served as cashier. I checked them out and mumbling, agreed with them, “yeah, what a jerk…” and got them on their way.
By then wedding crew’s meals were up and as I served their food, I commiserated with them too, “yeah, what a jerk…”
Then I went in the back and cried.
The tears not withstanding, my round-about point is, it didn’t really matter which group I commiserated with first. It just mattered that I commiserated with them both.
Sometimes with presentations, it doesn’t matter so much which order you take things in. It just matters that you cover all the points.
(OK so maybe this particular story is a stretch, but you get the point!)
3. Chunking – By the Numbers
When you have several ideas to cover on the same topic but the order doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a step-by-step approach, consider chunking the material into sections and then list them off by the number of parts you have to cover.
Sometimes the order won’t matter. Other times, the orders of the chunks can be arranged in a particular order that will help the listener make sense of the bigger picture. But the test for whether or not chunking would make sense as an approach for organizing your information is if the individual chunks of information could stand alone when separated from the other topics.
The reason I recommend numbering the chunks of information is because it will make it easier for your audience to follow along and mentally mark off where they’ve been and how much further they have to go.
Transitioning between chunks is a breeze. You can transition between chunks by saying, “…so XYZ if the first of the five things you need to know. The second thing you need to know is…” and so on through the presentation.
Chunking is a very common way to handle technical presentations when there are multiple aspects to cover. By chunking the content, you can also easily shorten your presentation by covering just the most important chunks and saving the rest of the information for another time.