In the perfect symphony, the composer must make sure that every note that should be in the symphony is included and that every note that should not be included is excluded, as the following quotation from Leonard Bernstein so artfully points out.
We are going to try to perform for you today a curious and rather difficult experiment. We're going to take the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and rewrite it. Now don't get scared; we're going to use only notes that Beethoven himself wrote. We're going to take certain discarded sketches that Beethoven wrote, intending to use them in this symphony, and find out why he rejected them, by putting them back into the symphony and seeing how the symphony would have sounded with them. Then we can guess at the reason for rejecting these sketches, and, what is more important, perhaps we can get a glimpse into the composer's mind as it moves through this mysterious creative process we call composing.
We have here painted on the floor a reproduction of the first page of the conductor's score for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Every time I look at this orchestral score I am amazed all over again at its simplicity, strength and rightness. And how economical the music is! Why, almost every bar of this first movement is a direct development of these opening four notes: […]
And what are these notes that they should be so pregnant and meaningful that whole symphonic movement can be born of them? Three G's and an E flat. Nothing more. Anyone could have thought of them—maybe…
Just as the perfect symphony has included all of the notes that should be included and has not included any notes that should in fact be excluded, Master Presenters do the same with their words. This is much easier said than done. How do Master Presenters make sure they have developed a cohesive presentation? The following seven steps will help guarantee that your presentation is as cohesive as possible:
Write a mission statement for your presentation and decide if each bit of the content advances that mission or not. For example, David Ropeik's mission is to help people make smarter and safer decisions in regard to accurately assessing and acting on the risks that they encounter. Similarly, Jack Welch's mission while president and CEO at General Electric was that GE would be the first or second best in each market division where it sold products or GE would pull out of that division. The mission statement for your presentation will help you stay on target and focus your message. It also makes it easier to get feedback from others as to whether or not you are achieving your goals.
Develop your goals and objectives for your presentation and decide whether each bit of the content is aligned with them. For example, "When you leave here today, you should be able to…" [enumerate the objectives]. You can also remind the listener of the value you are providing by having a visual trigger such as a flip chart checklist, and check off each objective as you address it.
For example, in a presentation on time management, the presenter might use "How can we do more in less time?" or "Have you ever considered the power of the ‘Not to do list’?" or, "Are there ways that we can increase market share without adding additional costs?"
Even if you don't use them in your final presentation, creating diagrams, such as flow charts and storyboards, can help to make your presentation preparations clearer and better organized. An organizational technique David uses is a simple circle. He shows the central thesis—his reason for speaking—at the top of the circle, as if it were occupying the 12 o'clock position on a clock face. Each supporting point then falls in sequence around the circle in clockwise rotation. Thus, each point can be seen in a clear sequence, culminating back to the central thesis. You could use a straight line rather than a circle, but the connection between your opening and your closing would not be as clear—or might not exist at all.
Test your presentation with friends, fellow presenters, and/or an audience and ask for feedback about what should be included and/or excluded. You can also ask about specific parts of the presentation.
When Mark Victor Hanson and Jack Canfield published their Chicken Soup for the Soul series, they collect a large number of stories. They then use a focus group to rate the stories on a scale of 1 to 100, and the highest-ranked stories were selected to appear in their books. Therefore, one way to test market the content of your presentation would be to ask a focus group of your friends and/or colleagues to help you select the content and structure of the presentation.
Give your focus group a specific task and keep a tight rein. If you open your presentation to scrutiny by too many free-thinking, free-wheeling people, you could end up with a committee rewriting your presentation, and that would not be good for anyone.
Successive approximations means that although the presentation will never be 100-percent cohesive, each time you work on it and/or get some great feedback, it will get better and better and closer and closer to its ideal form.
What do you want your audience members to think, feel, and/or do as a result of attending your presentation? If you cannot specifically answer these three questions, you are categorically not ready to present. For example, in David's business writing presentations, he tells the participants, "As a result of today's program, you will be able to write a business letter more clearly, concisely, and confidently."
In your next presentation, what do you want the participants to think, feel, and/or do differently as a direct result of attending your presentation?
I want my audience members to think…
I want my audience members to feel…
I want my audience member to do…
Berstein, Leonard. The Joy of Music. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959, p. 73.