A ‘How to …’ presentation is an informative talk in which you go through the completion of a task or a process by demonstrating how to complete it while going through a number of clear steps. Examples of possible topics for a ‘How to …’ presentation are:
- How to tie your shoes correctly
- How to set up a blog
- How to speak with conviction
- How to eradicate malaria
- How to predict the weather
In order to explain the completion of a task or process properly, it is important to clearly structure your talk by making sure you do these six things in order:
- Explain why it is necessary for the audience to listen to you
- Give them an overview of the entire process you are going to describe
- Divide the process into a number of steps and going over them one-by-one
- Describe each step, and show it (if possible)
- Discuss possible options, extras or variations (optional)
- Give a summary
- Explaining why
The first thing you need to do is come up with an effective opening in which you explain to your audience why it is important for them to listen to you. You do this by making clear which problem they will be able to solve after you are done speaking. When they know this, they will be motivated to listen to you because they will understand what is to be gained from it. Reasons for listening could be, for instance:
- Earning money
- Building a range of skills
- Making life easier
- Solving an important problem
It often helps to start your presentation with a story in order to paint a picture for your listener. For instance, if your talk is about how to learn to speak with conviction, you may want to start with a story about yourself in which you tell a story about a situation in which you were not able to do so, and the problems that caused you. You could then continue by describing how your life improved after having become a better speaker. A story like this allows you to build rapport with your audience because they will be able to put themselves in your shoes and relate to what you are saying.
- Giving an overview of your entire process
Before describing the steps that need to be taken for the completion of whatever it is you are going to explain, it is important to give your listeners a clear overview of the entire process. This will provide a framework for the details you are going to talk about later. By doing so, you will allow your listeners to put the different steps of your process into context. You need to make sure you keep the framework simple, so it’s easy to understand.
- The steps
Once you’ve given your audience an overview of your talk, you can move on to talking about the individual steps of your process, sticking to the core outline of your framework. Here the emphasis should be on how the steps are connected. Generally speaking, the simpler your series of steps is, the better. When your series contains optional steps or alternatives, it often works best to leave them until later so you can keep the emphasis on how the different steps in the series relate to each other. These connections should be clearly ‘signposted’ by using clear signaling language, like:
To move on, …
- Describing the steps
After mentioning the steps, you need to explain what the different steps of your process are and describe (and possibly show) each step separately. You can do this by:
- Explaining the purpose of each steps, or why each step is necessary
- Making clear what needs to be done during each step
- Showing how each step should be performed
- Discussing options, extras or variations
If the process you are describing includes options, extras or variations, it is important to leave them until after you have completed the task or process description. This is because offering alternatives while describing the steps often leads to confusion in the audience. You need to keep the emphasis on the general process and leave any options or variations until the end.
Finally, you need to summarize the entire task or process for your audience and recap the benefits of following the steps you offered. This will be your ‘take-home message’, so your summary needs to be simple and easy to remember.
About your visuals
When selecting the visuals for your ‘How to …’ presentation, remember that your own body is the best prop. Good body language is essential for making your talk effective and memorable. Also, keep in mind that physical props make what you are saying more real. This means that if you’re explaining how to tie your shoelaces correctly, bringing a pair of shoes to your presentation will have a positive effect on your audience. If your topic doesn’t allow you to bring physical props to your presentation, using photographs and diagrams instead, could also help you, as long as you keep them simple. Finally, make sure that all your visuals are big enough for everyone in your audience to see.