The Presentation Form: The Contours Of Communication

Drawing insights from mythological, literary, and cinematic structures, a presentation form emerged. Most great presentations unknowingly follow this form.

Presentations should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Two clear turning points in a presentation’s structure guide the audience through the content and distinctively separate the beginning from the middle and the middle from the end. The first is the call to adventure—this should show the audience a gap between what is and what could be— jolting the audience from complacency. When effectively constructed—an imbalance is created—the audience will want your presentation to resolve this imbalance.

The second turning point is the call to action, which identifies what the audience needs to do, or how they need to change. This second transition point signifies that you’re coming to the presentation’s conclusion. Notice how the middle moves up and down as if something new is happening continually. This back and forth structural motion pushes and pulls the audience to feel as if events are constantly unfolding.

An audience will stay engaged as you unwrap ideas and perspectives frequently.

Each presentation concludes with a vivid description of the new bliss that’s created when your audience adopts your proposed idea. But notice that the presentation form doesn’t stop at the end of the presentation. Presentations are meant to persuade, so there is also a subsequent action (or crossing the threshold) the audience is to do once they leave the presentation. They need to go from committing in thought, to committing in action.

Learn more about the contour of communication by exploring Resonate by Nancy Duarte.