Make your PowerPoint presentation a 3 act play

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(MoneyWatch) During the recent presidential debates, many pundits pointed out that the candidates' goals weren't necessarily to win the debate, but rather to effectively persuade the undecided voters.

The same is true of your next business presentation. Sure, the content of your message is important, but if it falls on deaf ears you might as well stay home and watch cat videos on the web. How you frame your presentation and deliver the information is just as important. That's why you should check out what presentation guru Nancy Duarte has to say on the subject. In her recent Harvard Business Review article and TED talk, she explains that an effective presentation is structured to tell a story in three parts, like a classic 3 act play.

Specifically, Duarte believes that an effective presentation is built like a good story, with a beginning, middle and an end. Here's how to think about structuring your next pitch:

The beginning. Start by explaining the status quo -- what the audience is already familiar with. By describing the current situation, you build a bond with the audience, because they'll immediately relate to your description. From there, discuss your vision -- where you would like to move the needle to. That sets up the tension for the rest of your presentation, just like the first act of a story.

The middle. Play to the tension. As Duarte says, "keep playing up the contrast between what is and what could be."

The end. The end is where you talk about the how. But don't make it a list of how-tos and action items. Certainly, you'll need to have a call to action, but Duarte emphasizes that you should be powerful and inspiring. She calls this the "new bliss" -- drive home how much better their world will be when they adopt your idea. Define the future rewards that will motivate your audience to willingly sign up for your call to action.

Be sure to watch the entire TED Talk for details on how to implement this presentation strategy.

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