The speakery presentation canvas
I've been helping people improve their presentations for a good five years now. As a result, I've listened to hundreds, if not thousands, of presentations, pitches, keynotes and speeches. Over the last thirty years, I've written, ghostwritten, pitched, performed and presented a fair share of my own too. I have a process, but I've noticed that many people don't and struggle because of it.
Some people find the preparation, writing and production of their presentations easy. Others, however, need help getting started or are surprised to see how much better their presentations are when I restructure them. Then some are asked to present something and simply don't know where to start, they're overwhelmed, and the stage fright and all of the insecurities that go with it kick in.
I am convinced that I can help anyone thrive in front of an audience as long as they have the tools, process and framework in place, and so I've developed a simple canvas to help kick-start any presentation.
8 Steps to a solid presentation framework
We all know Strategyzer's Business Model Canvas. It's helpful and great. However, we've also seen other "variations" on the BMC that aren't so useful. I've developed a format based on my personal experience and writing process and draws from the work, questions, concerns, and weaknesses of solid keynote speakers who have below-average presentations. I've tried my hardest to make something that actually works, saves time and dramatically improves presentations, and I'm calling it The Speakery Presentation Canvas.
01 The Synopsis
Imagine that your presentation is a book. The synopsis is at the back of that book. It's the text that most people read before buying the book. The outline doesn't only help you hone your thinking but makes it easier to sell your talk to event organisers, employers or line managers.
The synopsis is more than just having a text you can put on a website and send to potential speaker agents, conferences or event agencies; no, the synopsis is your elevator pitch. The synopsis frames your presentation. It gives it meaning. Describing and selling your keynote externally will help you internalise the presentation. The synopsis also turns your presentation into a product: it's a keynote in a box, something understandable, and something that people can buy.
This part of the process is your opportunity to introduce a storytelling layer before anyone has even seen your talk - you can give your presentation context, place it in a moment, and put it in a once-upon-a-time. The synopsis's purpose is to spark interest in a potential audience or buyer and ignite your creativity and push you to be more ambitious.
People will get a sense of your presentation, and, more importantly, so will you.
02 The presentation structure
Every story has a beginning, middle and end, and so should your presentation. The first act typically covers the status quo or the current situation of what you'll be presenting. In act two, we introduce chaos or change. This is the "something happened" part of the presentation - an event, person, decision or "thing" that altered what was happening in act one. Finally, in act three, we resolve the chaos, find answers and leave the audience with the tools to do something with the information. Give each chapter a title. Giving the chapter a title will help frame the chapter's content, how you tell the story and what kind of internal or external stories you want to use.
If you'd like to know more about how stories work and, more importantly, why they work, you should read: Into The Woods by John Yorke. Status quo, Chaos and Resolution are John's ideas. It's a fantastic book. I found it very helpful and believe that you will too.
The contents of act one (status quo) should normally be a mix of anecdotal stories, external stories that give the status quo of your story context, and key facts that support the overall theory of what the audience is about to see. This is the "once upon a time in a land far, far away" chapter.
In act two, we introduce the significant change. Something shifts in the story you are telling. Maybe sales dropped, crypto bombed, the steam engine was invented, Gutenberg started printing bibles, Airbnb was launched, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, or we chose to go to the moon. Act 2 is where any story, presentation or keynote makes it clear to the audience that this significant change, whatever it may be, is relevant to them and that they need to understand, navigate and embrace it. Act two is often dramatic, sometimes uncomfortable and can even be provocative. It's the mic-drop part of your presentation.
Where act two might leave an audience feeling shocked, provoked or confused, act three is there to pick up the pieces. You should be giving the audience a set of tools, answers or possible ways forward in act three. It's where the story is resolved. Act three provides the audience with closure. Acts one and two are the storytelling parts of your presentation, but it's the tools you give the audience in act three that your audience will remember you by.
03 Your Audience
Who is the intended audience for your presentation? Salespeople? Young people? Boomers? Internal or External audiences? Beginners, intermediates or experts? Who do you want to present your story to, and why should they care? And don't simply write "everybody". You have a specific story you want to tell, and a particular audience will benefit from listening to it. You don't need to try and be everybody's darling, so define the audience before writing, and when you have, write your presentation accordingly. This works exceptionally well if you know who will be in the audience: pitching to a small group of investors, or a potential client or presenting to the board? Write down the names of the people who will be there and think about what they need to hear and see.
04 Audience takeaways
Writing a list of things the audience will take away from your presentation sounds deceptively easy, but it is both hard to do as it is critical. Therefore, you must write these down and define them before you start writing your presentation. You'll find most of the audience takeaways will be packed into the third act of your presentation.
I like to think in terms of a structured to-do list:
What do you want the audience to do with the information you're giving them? Do you want them to change their behaviour, download a white paper, or invest in your company? What do you want them to do and why?
What ideas do you want to seed in their mind? What examples, case studies, or relevant stories do you want them to consider? How do you want to make them think?
Who do you want them to chase after with the information you've just given them? Their boss, business partners, lovers, friends, investors? What's the knock-on effect of what you've shared with them?
What problems does your presentation or your way of thinking solve? The idea behind The Speakery Canvas is to solve the issues of writers-block, lack of presentation structure, poor storytelling, stage fright and lack of confidence. What does your idea solve?
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05 External stories
No story is an island. Everything has a context. Whatever specific story you are trying to tell, however niche or industry-focused it may be, there will always be a similar story to be found elsewhere. Who else has experiences that could relate to the presentation? What fantastic, relevant and exciting stories can you incorporate into yours? In act one of my keynote "The Shape Of Change", I use Moa Zedong, Blockbuster and Kodak as examples of poor decision-making that looked good at the time but turned out to be cataclysmic. This was later backed up by another external story, the "inhibitors and barriers" conceptual model for business disruption by Marnix Assink. External stories are essential because they help the audience see that you're talking about real-world stuff relevant to them, their lives, jobs, careers, hopes and aspirations. You're also giving them great stories to show off with at their next dinner party, down the pub or on their next Tinder date.
06 Internal Stories.
Personal or internal stories are what qualify you to give your presentation. Where external stories can be curated and researched, the heart of your presentation must come from something that you or your business has or is experiencing. This is critical. These stories are more than just anecdotes; they are facts. Only someone who has climbed Mount Everest can honestly speak about the experience with any level of authority. Only someone who has transformed a process or launched a product, hired people, invested millions, filed for bankruptcy, or examined the data can talk about those things with any authority. You did the Excel. You know what's going on.
Internal stories are, of course, particularly relevant when presenting to your peers, colleagues, staff, or superiors. Where the external stories within this context help the people in your organisation understand that they are not alone, the internal stories will have the most significant impact.
07 The big questions
Although an important show element, the presentation is nothing but an Amuse Gueule for the Q&A session. I genuinely believe this. The presentation is a taster, a wonderfully told morsel of delicious information that should lead to an interesting, fruitful and constructive Q&A. During the years that I've been pitching, presenting and helping people with their keynotes, I've found that seeding questions into the presentation is a fantastic way of guaranteeing a great Q&A. Therefore, it's helpful to consider three questions and hardcode them into the talk's storyline.
A great place to start is to write down the question you're most afraid of because this ensures that you'll answer it somewhere in the presentation. Finding your weak links and being able to answer them before anyone else is preferable to having them revealed live on stage, surely?
Once you've got that question out of the way, you can focus on the questions you want the audience to ask, and because you've set them up during the presentation - because you've seeded them in the minds of the audience, you'll be perfectly placed to answer them.
08 The one big thing
And finally, I'd like you to consider what I call The One Big Thing. This is the point of your presentation. It's more than just its title, no; The One Big Thing is its reason for being and the reason anybody should care about it. All of the story elements, anecdotes, facts and figures, questions, answers, tools, images, sounds and video elements should point to this one critical thing.
- It can be an idea.
- It can be a call to action.
- It can be an observation.
Whatever it is, The One Big Thing is the critical component that will positively impact the audience. It is the presentation's driving force. Without it, the presentation is just words and pretty pictures. One of the best criticisms of my worst keynotes was this: "17 minutes of saying poorly nothing". They were right; it was 17 minutes of talking without a central idea, without a reason to care - it was 17 minutes without The One Big Thing.
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So that's The Speakery Presentation Canvas. It's free to use (but may not be reproduced for publishing purposes without prior consent, and this user guide is subject to copyright). You can download a png here and use it as a background image in your favourite presentation software.
I hope it helps! Questions? Feedback? Let me know on LinkedIn!
Please let me know if you need help with it or if you would like me to help you with your canvas. I'm more than happy to help in exchange for money. You can book a 15 minute complimentary consultation call to discover how I can help you improve your presentations.
The Speakery Method masterclass
Would you like to learn more about The Speakery Presentation Canvas and The Speakery Method? Would you like me to come to your company to help your peers, staff and partners under how the canvas can help improve their presentation skills? Then book The Speakery Method keynote today!