The 80/20 Rule for Speakers
“Oratory is the power to talk people out of their sober and natural opinions.”– Joseph Chatfield
Have you heard of the 80/20 Rule? It was first documented by an Italian economist named Wilfredo Pareto in the nineteenth century.
Examples of the 80/20 Rule are 80% of your revenue is provided by 20% of your clients. 80% of the value of your college degree is provided by 20% of the courses you have taken. 80% of the value of your efforts is in 20% of your time.
The 80/20 Rule for speakers simply is what are 20% of the parts of your presentations that will provide 80% of your success for the presentation.
I propose to you that if I was to select three parts (20%) of your presentation that would give you the most value (80%) they would be structure, stories, and three main points. The three parts of your presentation are like making a great cake.
A presentation without structure is like a being in a rowboat in a lake without a paddle or driving from Washington DC to Los Angeles CA without a map or GPS or taking a college course without a text book. You would be lost.
A presentation without structure is a meandering generality. It is frustrating for you because you never know when you are finished or where you are in the presentation. It is especially frustrating for your audience because they will not grasp your message.
There are many presentation patterns you can use when you speak to your audiences: logical or topical, chronological, geographical, cause and effect, and problem-solution.
However, all these presentations have a common structure which is different from patterns as stated in the above paragraph: opening, introduction, body, conclusion, closing. If you miss any of these parts, your audience will miss your message.
All outstanding presentations have a structure. They are the “cake batter” of your presentation “cake.” However, to ensure your presentation is outstanding, you must add the “icing on your presentation cake.”
There are many ways to do this. One of the most effective is to illustrate your main points by stories
If you are a parent, has your young daughter or son ever said to you, “Mommy (or Daddy), tell me a story.” Even young children know what you say to them will stay with them if you can tell them a relevant story. You may not think the stories you tell your youngster make a point. I think if you truly think about them, you would notice they do.
Your audience will probably not be comprised of young children, but they want to hear stories relevant to your main points. Stories are entertaining, interesting, and teach us something.
Perhaps your presentation is about embarrassing situations. The following story might work:
Bobby (5), his mom and dad, and his brother Sam (8) were visiting one of Bobby’s mom’s dearest older friends, Madge. It was obvious Madge did not have any children. When Bobby and his family entered Madge’s living room, they discovered small glass dishes everywhere with a wide assortment of hard candy and chocolates. It was a candy lover’s fantasyland.
She asked Bobby and his brother if they wanted any candy. Bobby suddenly ran behind his mother, shy as he was. Madge then invited them all to sit. Madge talked to Bobby’s parents for a while in the living room. Bobby and his brother Sam sat quietly while the adults were talking – no small feat for five and eight-year-old boys. After what seemed like three hours to the boys (It was only a half hour), Madge invited Bobby’s mom and dad into the kitchen for some cake and coffee leaving Bobby and Sam in the candy lover’s fantasyland.
After about an hour, the adults came back into the living room. Now, Bobby’s dad was a physical kind of dad. He would wrestle with Bobby and Sam all the time. Suddenly, Bobby’s dad picked him up and turned him upside down. What do you think fell out of Bobby’s pockets? Right! An assortment of small candies streamed out of Bobby’s pockets. His mom was so embarrassed. She profusely apologized to Madge, which Madge brushed off. Madge might not have had kids, but she did know even the best of kids do the darndest things.
Needless to say, this was an embarrassing moment for Bobby’s mom. However, Madge took it all in stride which made Bobby’s mom feel a good bit better.”
The lesson for Bobby’s mom? Sometimes the embarrassing situations in your life are blown way out of proportion.
So, a pleasant little story about an embarrassing situation. It is better when the story is true. The story gets even better if you lead the audience in one direction and then switch to another direction. This story can get even better if it is a personal story which it is. Bobby was not the little boy’s name. His name was Frankie. Yes, Bobby was me!
If structure is your presentation “cake batter” and stories are your presentation’s “cake frosting,” what are the “ingredients” of your cake? The “ingredients” are your three main points.
Three Main Points
No doubt you have heard me talk about the Rule of Three. I have been invoking it throughout this writing.
The Rule of Three says that whenever mentioning any item, it is best to have three examples of the item. A series of three examples of the item seems to mesh well with how people think and remember. Two items does not seem enough and four or more items seems too many. Three is just enough.
If you use the Rule of Three when it comes to the number of main points in your presentations whether it is five minutes or one hour, both you and your audience will be pleasantly pleased.
You need to remember a few things about your three main points:
Ensure your main points are relevant to your message
Ensure you spend the same amount of time on each of your three main points and the same number of support sub-points
Ensure you have transitions between each of your three main points
Three main points relevant to your message are able to be remembered by your audience. Isn’t your message what you want your audience to retain?
Your presentation’s structure is it’s “cake batter,” the stories you tell are your presentation’s “cake frosting,” and your three main points are the “ingredients of your presentation cake.”
So, go make an outstanding “presentation cake”
Call to Action
Structure your presentation with an opening/introduction, body, conclusion, closing
Include stories in your presentation, personal ones if possible. Remember, your audience will retain more from a story than they will with you just talking facts.
Use three main points in your presentation relevant to your message. If you do, your audience will remember your message
“The problem with speeches isn’t so much not knowing when to ﬆop, as knowing when not to begin.”– Frances Rodman
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