22 Feb How to structure clearer messages

So you’ve got a presentation to design. I bet you jump on PowerPoint, download all the slides you have ever used in that subject matter and then organize them into some kind of order. Am I right? In fact, 70% of people in our research (with a sample size of 800 people) said yes, that’s how they design their presentations.

News flash: Designing your business presentations in PowerPoint is the slowest and most ineffective way to a brilliant workplace presentation.

How should you do it instead?

The model that I suggest you might like to use when structuring your presentations was developed by Bernice McCarthy. McCarthy drew on the various theories of adult learning proposed by psychologists and theorists such as Jung, Paiget, Vygotsky, Dewey, Lewin and Kolb. McCarthy was passionate about both the diversity of learning styles and the various needs of the different learners in one classroom.

In other words, she felt strongly that not all learners should be presented to in the same way. She created an instructional system that addresses the intrinsic needs of all audience types. Bernice McCarthy called her model the 4Mat System.

4Mat recognises that individuals need to have four key questions answered. In some cases the questions are explicit and known by the audience virtual’ in nature and therefore not yet conscious for either the presenter or the audience member.

In some cases, by virtue of their personality and preferred learning style, audience members have a preference for one of these four questions over the others.

In order to be convinced by your argument, they will need to have their primary question answered.

This is not to say that they will not be interested in other questions too. In order to capture the hearts and minds of all audience members, you will need to be sure that your presentation answers all four questions in a given order.

 There are four key questions to address in the audience-focused model:

  1. Why? The audience has a need to clarify the context and rationale. Simon Sinek did not make this up – Bernice McCarthy did!
  2. What? The audience has a need to identify the detail of what is to be learnt.
  3. How? The audience has a need to explore how to use and apply what is learnt.
  4. What if?/ What else? The audience needs to outline the alternatives for the new information, to modify, adapt and create new contexts.

Try this next time you have to structure an argument, write a proposal, coach a colleague, request something of your child or partner or friend, craft an email, answer a question, teach something to someone.

Then create your slides to reinforce your key messages.

The sky’s the limit!

Happy Presenting!

p.s. For lots of extra, detailed information on how to apply 4Mat to your own work context, perhaps you’d like to read my book called How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work (Wiley).