Presentations: Where to start

Chances are good that you will need to give a presentation related to some aspect of your job many times during your career. It can be an overwhelming prospect trying to figure out what you should cover in the typically inadequate amount of time allotted to you. We have all attended presentations that seem to ramble off into tangents and we are left wondering what the take away message was. How do you prevent this from happening to you?

I recommend starting at the end. Decide what your take home message will be before you work on anything else. Don't just think about it, write down what you want those last two sentences to be. Once you have that established, then go backwards. What will your audience need to know in order to understand your final message? And even more important, what don't they need to know? If you are considering talking about something and it doesn't directly tie to your final message, don't say it, no matter how interesting it seems. If everything you say leads the audience to that final message, your presentation will be appreciated and memorable.

A great way to practice presenting is by joining Toastmasters; an organization that meets weekly to build public speaking skills. We are very fortunate to have two Toastmasters clubs right here in Ashland! One meets at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday mornings in the City Council Chambers (call 482-9514 for more info), and the other Tuesday nights at 7 the Siskiyou School (call 482-9433 for more info).

Karen Bolda, M.A., is a meeting facilitator and professional development trainer. She's lived in Ashland for 13 years where she operates her own consulting business. Visit her website at or contact her at

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