Do you have that friend or family member who offers you a ride and then doesn’t look at a map or set their GPS app because they’re so sure they know how to get to where they’re going? They may be confident that they know where they’re headed, but unless you already trust them—a lot—you will be nervous and distracted, especially if you are under time pressure or have something important to do at your destination. It’s not that you necessarily expect them to get lost, but it would be nice to have some reassurance that they’re on the right path.
When you begin a presentation by diving straight into your information, your audience is a lot like a passenger in that car. They want to believe you’ll get them where they need to go, but you haven’t given them any reassurance, any reason to trust you. Remember that most often, the purpose of a business presentation is to help other people get their work done, and they expect that the time they spend with you will be useful in meeting that goal. If you don’t make it clear up front that you know where you’re going, your audience may be distracted, wondering whether you’re spending their time well.
The most effective way to earn trust early and ensure that your audience is focused on your content is to create a frame for your whole presentation. The frame is the introduction that starts your presentation and the conclusion that wraps it up.
Key components in your presentation frame
The framing introduction is especially important because it’s where you clearly communicate that you have a meaningful direction in mind. A good frame should start with an introduction that meets the following criteria:
- It’s brief. Even a full-day presentation should be framed in 30-90 seconds of presentation time. Any more than that and you are going into too much detail or starting to deliver your actual presentation content.
- It covers four key elements:
- The current situation: What’s the audience’s context for this presentation? Why is this presentation being delivered? Is there a problem to be solved or information that needs to be discussed?
- Your purpose: What do you want your audience to do, think, or feel when you’re finished?
- The benefit to listeners: Why is your presentation worth their time and attention? How will they be better off when you reach your goal?
- Your agenda: Broadly, what are you going to talk about and in what order?
The conclusion part of the frame is also important. Even when you’re running out of time, it’s usually worth speeding up delivery of some of your content in order to be sure you can deliver a brief (30-60 seconds) conclusion. This is your opportunity to close the frame you introduced at the beginning. Do this by summarizing what has been presented or decided and by communicating whatever next steps are appropriate. Then people will know what to expect from you and from each other in the coming days and weeks.
Beginning and ending your business presentation with a well-constructed frame is the first—and arguably most important—way you establish yourself as a trustworthy business presenter.