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The 20-60-20 Rule: Perfecting the Flow of Your Presentation

Few things make an audience tune out faster than a disorganised presentation lacking clear structure. Rambling content without purpose leads to confusion and boredom. That's why developing a strong narrative flow using the 20-60-20 rule is so important.

Presentation skills
Presentations are never easy

This simple yet effective framework divides a presentation into three parts representing the percentage of time allocated:

- The Introduction (20%)

- The Body (60%)

- The Conclusion (20%)

When crafted skilfully, the different sections work together seamlessly to captivate your listeners and drive your core message home. In this article, we will explore how following the 20-60-20 rule takes your presentation from forgettable to phenomenal.

While mastering flow takes practice and experience, working with a presentation coach accelerates your skills significantly. An expert speaking coach provides guidance on structure, delivery, messaging, visual aids and handling Q&A. With their help, you can quickly level up your abilities and develop presentations that inspire.

The 20%: Craft a Strong Start

The opening 20% of your presentation is crucial. This section sets the tone and determines whether your audience will be hooked from the start. Your introduction should:

- Immediately grab the audience's attention

- Establish your credibility

- Build rapport and connection with listeners

- State your core purpose and outline what's to come

Some effective techniques for memorable openings include:

- Asking a thought-provoking question

- Telling a relevant anecdote or story

- Using a striking quote or statistic

- Sharing a surprising fact or news item

- Beging with an activity, demonstration or media clip

- Appealing to the audience's emotions

Aim to capture interest straight away by highlighting why your topic is relevant, timely and worth paying attention to. A strong opening draws people in rather than gradually warming them up to you.

Powerful introductions require preparation and practice. Experienced speaking coaches can help craft and refine an impactful opening that gets your presentation off to a productive start.

The 60%: Deliver a Compelling Middle

The bulk of your presentation occurs in the middle 60% portion. This is your chance to build momentum, deliver core content and keep the audience engaged.

Within the main body, use signposting language like "Now let's explore..." or "Moving on to..." to transition smoothly between key points. Employ a mixture of facts, stories, examples and visuals to bring your ideas to life.

Here are some tips for holding attention during the middle:

- Vary your tone and pace to add energy and drama when appropriate

- Use rhetorical devices like repetition, alliteration and analogies

- Interact with the audience through rhetorical questions and discussion prompts

- Make key points clearly and concisely instead of rambling

- Use visual aids like slides, images and video clips to reinforce messages

- Add interactive elements such as think-pair-share discussions, quizzes or activities

- Share relatable anecdotes and case studies to illustrate concepts

- Use body language, gestures and movement around the stage

A presentation coach can assess your current skills and provide personalised techniques to increase audience engagement. With practice, you'll learn to deliver content in a lively, smooth and memorable fashion.

The Final 20%: Drive Home Your Message

The concluding 20% of your talk is the final opportunity to resonate with the audience and achieve your presentation goals. Effective conclusions:

- Summarise the key takeaways and core message

- Tie back to the introduction and overall purpose

- End on a high note that motivates, inspires or provokes further thought

Strategies for memorable closings include:

- Circling back to an anecdote or theme from the introduction

- Issuing a strong call to action for the audience

- Using a relevant quote or soundbite

- Posing an open-ended final question

- Sharing an inspiring vision for the future

- Adding a personal story that connects emotionally

Be purposeful and avoid trailing off awkwardly or introducing entirely new content at the end. A presentation coach can review your conclusion and provide alternatives to strengthen your finish.

Weaving Together Seamless Transitions

Skillfully transitioning between sections contributes greatly to flow. Bridges like recapping previous points before moving forward prevent choppy jumps in your content.

Helpful transitional phrases include:

- Now that we've covered X, let's move on to...

- Building off that last idea...

- This leads us to our next key topic...

- We've explored X and Y so far. Now let's tackle...

- In summary, we've learned A, B and C. Next we'll discuss...

Your coach can point out any missing bridges in your presentation and brainstorm smooth transitional elements.

Managing Q&A Gracefully

An impactful yet structured Q&A session demonstrates command of your material and engagement with the audience.

Be ready to field questions by preparing FAQs and reasonable challenging questions in advance. Have strategies for redirecting rambling or aggressive questions tactfully. Keep responses concise, relevant and tied back to key messages.

Presentation coaches offer invaluable guidance for polishng Q&A delivery and thinking on your feet.

Adjusting the Formula for Different Contexts

While the 20-60-20 split provides helpful starting ratios, the framework can flex for longer keynote speeches or shorter briefings by allocating more or less time per section.

For webinars and virtual presentations, transitions and audience engagement tactics require some reworking to be effective online.

Experienced coaches understand how to fine tune the rule of thirds for different mediums and contexts. Don't be afraid to adjust the percentages as needed while maintaining proportional flow.

Actionable Takeaways for Readers

In summary, here are the top tips for implementing the 20-60-20 rule:

- Hook the audience immediately with a strong opening

- Use signposting and varied delivery to build momentum through the middle

- Close with impact by summarising, tying together themes and ending memorably

- Focus on smooth transitions between each section

- Prepare extensively for audience questions

- Work with a presentation coach to perfect your flow

Whether you're a novice presenter or seasoned speaker, applying the 20-60-20 framework will elevate your delivery. Help your next presentation resonate by following this golden rule.


An engaging presentation requires more than good content - it must unfold skillfully to captivate listeners from start to finish. The 20-60-20 rule provides an easy to follow structural template that sets you up for success.

Combine this approach with an experienced speaking coach, and you'll notice dramatic improvements in audience attentiveness and presentation impact. Don't leave your delivery to chance - invest in coaching and master the rule of thirds for phenomenal presentations. Your listeners will thank you.


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