Back in 7th grade, I learned a secret of high-impact presenting. The power of information layering. While tools and times have changed, the power of layers has stayed true. Here’s how it works.

People like to see the big picture first.

Simple, really. But, not necessarily commonly used. Just hold on a second. Think back to the last few presentations you’ve seen recently. Not too many presenters reveal the big picture up front.

Here’s why. Many presenters think they achieve this with a linear overview. They provide a point-by-point agenda. They toss up an ‘overview’ slide…but then scurry off to dive deep into data.

Ever wonder why?

Mostly, presenters are anxious to show what they know. When I coach executives and subject matter experts, this shows up. Smart people are eager to share expertise and make a difference. But in a flurry of fresh exuberance, it is easy to forget a single fact:

Your audience has not seen your information before. This is their first time.

Yesterday, I watched an expert presenter do exactly this. His exact words: “I guess I’m much more familiar with my data than you are.”

That hit the nail on the head. No kidding. He seemed well-versed in his information. And his presentation was packed with insider lingo, jargon, acronyms and fancy-sounding words.

But here’s the real reason I recognized this off the bat. Let me be the first to confess. Straight up. I’ve done the exact same thing. When you’re a passionate person, it’s easy to get carried away with your topic.

Which is why, I want you to steer clear of this mistake. Use the power of layering…just follow these simple steps to make a powerful impact.

Step 1. Show The Big Why
It’s remarkably easy to assume that your audience knows ‘why’ your information is so valuable. Burn this mantra in your mind: don’t assume.

State your big why. And do this first. Lots of presenters lose their audiences because they hold off on the ‘why.’ Instead, they show ‘how,’ ‘what’ and ‘when’ first. Then, as dessert, they offer the ‘why.’

This is inherently backwards.

But don’t take my word for it. Give it a shot. Then, see how quickly you win attention.

Step 2. Announce What’s Coming
After your big overview, show what’s coming next. Think of this as being a tour guide, facilitating your audiences’ experience. Hint: resist the desire to dive deep into every detail.

Remember: this is the first time your audience is seeing your presentation. Explain what’s coming.

Step 3. Reveal The Next Layer
Now, reveal what is at the next layer.

As I mentioned, I did this in a 7th grade school presentation. In my report, I showed a map of Ireland using transparencies. Remember those? Clear sheets of acetate to show different layers of information. I drew a picture of locations of different industries on each layer. Taken as one picture, it was easy to see a complex map comprised of layers of information.

Funny how as a child, you understand something like this intuitively…and it still works.

Step 4. Recap and Underscore
After you’ve done the first three steps, pause. Recap what you’ve shown. Underscore the key concept. As with the other steps, many executives forget to do this. It almost seems too simplistic or slow. But it’s not.

Instead of being remedial, it’s highly effective. Viewers have time to digest the information.

The next time you give a presentation, follow these 4 steps. You won’t leave your audience behind in the dust. Instead, everyone will understand the big picture and stay with you every step of the way.

Author's Bio: 

Milly Sonneman is a recognized expert in visual language. She is the co-director of Presentation Storyboarding, a leading presentation training firm, and author of the popular guides: Beyond Words and Rainmaker Stories available on Amazon. Milly helps business professionals give winning presentations, through Email Marketing skills trainings at Presentation Storyboarding. You can find out more about our courses or contact Milly through our website at: