Imagine your closet so stuffed with shirts, pants, shoes, and jackets — and for ladies, also dresses, skirts, purses and scarves — that you cannot see well enough to find anything to wear!

When a speaker or leader crams every possible piece of data, too many examples, multiple images and valuable but untargeted information into their presentation, no one walks away better off than when they arrived.

As I promised last week, the second of the five biggest speaking mistakes that leaders make is the failure to organize their content. (For all five, click here to register for my free one-hour webinar on Thursday, 12 noon or 7:30 pm.)

Just as you tackle organizing a closest, where you can separate your clothes by color, seasons, work versus play and other differentiators, it’s best to categorize your content in a way that makes it easy for you to build your message. Once you’ve decided what is really essential to include, and you put your facts, examples, stories and comparisons into categories, the next step is to create a structure.

Here are the four elements that go into a well-organized presentation:

  1. A compelling opening, where you grab attention. Alas, many folks just start talking, never giving any real thought to their opening statement. A commanding fact or an engrossing story are two of six ways you can begin with a bang!
  2. A pre-body summary, an intriguing overview of what you’re discussing. From my experience, most people overlook this critical step. They jump from the opening right into the body. The overview can be one of the most challenging sections of a message to write because you don’t want it to be merely functional, too complex or simply boring. Weave in benefit words or pain words, hinting at what’s in it for the audience to listen to the upcoming information.
  3. The body – your main ideas, usually a maximum of three. Here’s where the categories you devised earlier are applied. All of the five formats for organizing the body ultimately boil down to the most basic: Tell them what you’re going to tell them (The pre-body). Tell them your ideas. Tell them what you told them (The close).
  4. The close – with a summary and a strong call for action. You know that if you don’t ask for something, nothing will happen! At the same time, you often hear a speaker or leader drone on and on, finally wrapping up with, “That’s all I have to say. Are there any questions?†Take the time to figure out how you want to end your message and exactly what you want as the outcome.

For more on organizing your message and how to avoid the other four most common speaking mistakes that leaders make, I urge you to join my free one-hour webinar on Thursday, 12 noon or 7:30 pm. Just click here for more information or to register.

Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!