Some planes are outfitted with video screens that show you a flight path and a tiny plane icon moving along - just like the ones in old movies or Indiana Jones! This addition made long flights much more palatable to me. There is magic in knowing "you are here."
Strong presenters know that the audience craves that sense of an overall plan and current position.
Right off the bat, let me acknowledge there is a HUGE exception to this rule: master storytellers frequently employ an element of surprise or suspense and a few unexpected turns to hold their audience in the palm of their hands. Think Steven Jobs. He had the charisma and control to hold an audiences' attention as well as content that had us all literally reaching for our wallets before he finished speaking. If you are in that rarefied class, congratulations!
The rest of us need to help our audience be a good audience, and one effective way to do that is to provide presentation GPS: that is, a map of our destination, our current location, and our route.
Some presenters choose to rely on their voice-over to guide the audience through the presentation, but here's the Catch22: if you know your presentation inside-out (and you really should!) it's hard to identify points of potential confusion. The flow makes perfect sense to you, but the first-time viewer may not follow your logic or, perhaps more likely, they may make assumptions that muddle your stellar approach.
A better solution it to incorporate presentation GPS elements into every presentation. There a many ways to do this, including:
- Agenda - the simplest and most overlooked tool you can use to set expectations... and meet them
- Break Slides - highlight upcoming topics and indicate the current section
- Headlines - combine primary and secondary to tell them overtly "you are here"
e.g., this is the Finance section and we're still discussing Seasonal Discounts
- Iconography - create icons that corresponds to each topic and repeat them on content pages to orient the audience to the larger outline and flow
- Color - select your background, border or headline color to subtlety communicate a change in sections
There's an old, yet accurate piece of presentation advice: Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em. Tell 'em. Tell 'em what you told 'em. I would add one more element: Tell 'em where they are.