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Picture yourself attending a holiday gathering (e.g. Thanksgiving dinner), a special occasion (e.g. wedding) or a corporate event (e.g. fundraiser).  Think back to the tables at this event and you may recall something that stood out such as a floral arrangement, ice sculpture or signage.  Each of these visuals gave the event a particular focus.

When it comes to your presentation this focus may be referred to a a theme.  In fact, every time I’m asked to speak at a conference or meeting, one of the key questions I ask is: What’s the theme of your event? That’s an essential piece of information to know so that I may tailor what I say so it dovetails with the pre-existing theme.  It makes for a much better fit and helps create continuity and impact for participants.

I treat this theme as the presentation centerpiece. By doing this it creates more focus and helps me connect to what is already being emphasized at the meeting or conference.  As an example, next month I’m speaking at a full-day client meeting where the theme is winning the Triple Crown.  By knowing this, I can weave it into any aspect of my presentation (e.g.  title, slides, opening and closing remarks, interactive activities, prizes, etc.).

Periodically there have been occasions where a theme doesn’t exist but that doesn’t stop me. I create my theme based on what the organization does for its clients.  Examples include when I spoke to a chiropractic team meeting where my theme was: Anatomy of a phone call and how to keep the backbone of conversations strong or when I addressed a realty association and my theme was: ensuring your communication has curb appeal. When I spoke to librarians, I arranged my messages by referring to them as chapters and the final activity was an epilogue.  Today I was coaching staff from a company that specializes in trade shows and we discussed the need for a theme to help tie information together.  Based on the fact that this client was offering invaluable tips as the core of its presentation, I recommended a theme of problem/solution.  This was a good fit and they were able to weave it into their opening, closing and transitional remarks.

In conclusion, the next time you attend an event, I bet you’ll notice the centerpiece and how it supports the theme.  That’s exactly what you want to accomplish the next time you speak.  Need ideas?  Let’s talk.

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