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Go with the Flow – How to Organize Your Technical Presentation to Get Business Results – Part 1 – Start with the End Structure


One of the men I admired early in my career was the late Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jeremy “Mike” Boorda.  At the time I came to know of him, he was in charge of the Naval Personnel Command.

Among the lessons I learned through his leadership was that you can’t just tell people things one way.  Your need to repeat yourself but in different ways to help the information to get through.

I think something similar can be said about presentations, but I’d add that you need to carefully consider the way you organize your information in a presentation.  Based on the purposes of your presentation, and your audience, you want to organize your content in a way that is meaningful and is easy to follow.

When it comes to technical presentations, below are the most common ways to organize your presentation based on the type of information and the audience receiving it.  Over the next four posts, I’ll review the four most common starting with…


1.  Start with the End Approach

The Approach

Determine the end state.  Determine the final result that the audience cares about most.  Start with that.

When to Use

Speaking to Executives

If you’re speaking to a group of top executives, you’ll typically want you to get to the point right from the start.  Their time is limited.  They want to know right away why they should care.

For example, say you’re speaking to a group of executives at a prospect.  After listening to them and learning about the needs, you might start your presentation with:

Your concerns are similar to a client we worked with last year.  After implementing our processes, their sales cycle time was cut by a sixth, allowing them to get more work in the pipeline with the same number of sales professionals.

Then you can transition into the how.


The Progress Report

Reporting on the progress of a project is another situation where the audience typically doesn’t want all the minutia.  They want to know the bottom line.

For example, you might say:

We’re on track to meet our timeline and our budget for the project.  The software cost us more than we anticipated but we also had less travel cost than planned for.  We had a set back with the second iteration but the team worked a few extra hours last week and we’re back on track.  Net, net, we’re still on track even with the adjustments.


The Anxious Audience

Another time when you want to start with the end, is when the audience is anxiously preoccupied, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For instance, if your audience is part of an acquired company – what’s everyone thinking?  Do I have a job?

Start right there.

I know that many of you have an overriding question right now.  What does this mean to me?  Will I still have a job?

Here’s what we know now – and what we don’t know yet.

Be truthful and as transparent as possible.  No one is going to hear anything until they at least get that unanswered question addressed.


What Else?

These are the times to Start with the End.  What have I left out?  Are there other situations where you want to use this approach as well?

Tell me what’s missing in the comments below!