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What newspapers can teach us about presentation structure

June 29, 2010

Recently I have been reading a fantastic book on various universal concepts of design and I must admit that it has been a great read and some of the concepts in the book have proved somewhat of a revelation.

One of the concepts discussed in the book involves disclosing the crucially important information first, and then filtering down to the progressively less important details. When you think about it we see this all the time, for example this is the way that articles in newspapers disclose their information.  They do not follow a start-middle-end format like other methods of storytelling.

Consider these two methods of communicating an important news story:

Man found murdered in Dublin
Killer caught.
It happened at 9pm after a fight outside a bar in a suburb.
The fight was about the price of butter”


At 9pm last night two men fought about the price of butter...
It happened outside a local bar in Dublin’s suburbs.
One man was murdered.
The other was later caught”

Using the first approach of disclosing  the most important information first can often make a lot of sense because studies have shown that we are at our most attent at the beginning and end of a presentation and are therefore more likely to absorb the information given to us. So if you are leaving your “meat” or important points for the middle of your presentation this might be a mistake because your audience might just be asleep by that stage!

So how can this line of thinking be applied to our presentations?
It can be done by kicking of your presentation with a strong opening sentence or two that will explain your idea – in a clear and straight forward manner – from the very outset. Furthermore getting straight to the point will help you frame how your audience are going to interpret the information presented to them in the rest of the presentation.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Ameya Patil permalink
    July 2, 2010 1:38 pm

    I think,beginning with most important is absolutely fine.
    But,I don’t agree with the end being very imp. as well.
    Getting on important stuff in descending order is perhaps,better.
    Its towards the end that audience gets sick of the presentation.
    So,presenting important points in descending order can help keep their interest alive

    • July 2, 2010 1:44 pm

      Don’t think I referenced the end…

      but I would say that the end is very important! It is where you sum things up, where you conclude your story, remind people what they have heard throughout the presentation.

      It is your call to action for goodness sake! Last impressions count!


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