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How to plan the content for your 15-minute presentation

Standing up in front of a group of prospective clients and/or potential collaborators is such a useful thing to do, and yet so many business owners shy away from it or worse still, do it badly. 


Having a well-constructed 15-minute presentation up your sleeve allows you to say ‘yes’ at the drop of a hat when an opportunity to present your business comes up, perhaps at a networking meeting or at a professional seminar.  


Speaking about your business gives you an opportunity to present yourself as an expert in your field and will ultimately help you get more clients – when you do it well. 


I’ve heard a lot of business owners give lots of valuable information, and often do so with confidence and clarity, and yet the audience remembers little of what was said. 

Putting your content into a simple structure that can be easily followed, understood and remembered will make you more memorable than the next speaker who fails to do that. Too many speakers simply present a catalogue of interesting facts and advice but in a random order, so that it makes little sense and doesn’t take root in their audience’s minds. 


In fairness, this usually happens when they’re so passionate about what they do and how they can help that they try to squeeze too much information into their presentation. The result is confusion. 


There are several well-known structures for presentations. I believe that this one that I teach and write about is a really good starting point, from which you can scale your presentation up or down, depending on how long you’ve been asked to speak and on who is your specific audience. 


Where to start


Start with the end in mind. What do you want your audience to do as a result of your talk? 


If you’re giving a business talk, perhaps you will invite them to book a call with you so that they can find out more about how you can help them. 


If your talk is motivational, you might want them to make some changes as a result of hearing it. 


Or you might be inviting them to sign up for a course, to buy your book or for a special offer on your services. 


You might even give the same talk several times, with different intended outcomes, in which case you might just need to tweak the content accordingly. 


Once you are clear on that intended outcome, it’s key that the content of your talk aligns with that. For example, it doesn’t make sense to make your talk all about the importance of having your Power of Attorney in place and then invite your audience to come and see you about making a will. 


Your message 


What is the main message that you want your audience to take away with them? You should be able to sum this up in one short sentence. 


Following on with the example above, you might want them to know how important it is for business owners to have a PoA in place. 


What do you need to teach them to get this message across? 


Start by jotting down everything that you could tell your audience in support of your message.  


You might do this in list form, or by using a mindmap, or by writing each point on a post-it note. 


There’s no need for self-editing at this stage – just get all your ideas out. 


Organising your content 


What are the 3 key points/areas/angles you need to get across in order to support your message that all the rest can fall under? 


3 is about the right number for a 15-minute presentation. If you’re speaking for longer, you could extend to 5, or if speaking for less time then keep it to 1. 


In our example, these 3 angles, or headings, might be ‘what it means if you have one,’ ‘what it means if you don’t’ and ‘how to do it.’ 


When you’ve decided on those 3 headings, organise all the things you wrote down for no.3 under these 3 headings. 


If any of your list doesn’t fit under any of the headings, put them to one side for now. It may be that they go into a different presentation for another time, or it may be that you need to tweak your headings. 


In a 15-minute presentation, aim to speak for 3 – 4 minutes on each point. If you have too much information to give, hone it down. Less is more when it comes to retention in your audience’s mind, so put anything aside that you can’t use on this occasion. It may be useful for a different presentation. 


Don’t be tempted to create a 4th area! Keep it simple. 


Tailor it to your audience 


Once you have your presentation, you may find yourself being asked to deliver it to different audiences. Whilst it’s fine to give broadly the same talk, it’s really important to tweak your content according to who is going to be in a particular audience so that they feel that you’re talking to them. 


Obviously, you can’t appeal to every single person but aim to appeal to whatever the common theme of the audience is. For example, are they all business owners, students, post-graduates, baby boomers, new parents, etc.? 


Whilst your main message will be the same, and probably your 3 key points, your call to action may be different. The supporting facts and information may vary, and that’s where you might make use of some of those post-it notes you put aside in 4 above. 


If you’ve found this useful and would like a bit more of my help in crafting your presentation, book a call with me now.


Rachel Maunder is a communication skills and speaker coach and professional speaker.

She has been in the world of competent communication, in different guises, for more than 30 years so has a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to pass on to her clients, both through her signature programmes and her own presentations.

You can find out more about her coaching programmes here and about her speaking topics here.


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