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The Deep Structure

The best way to understand what we mean by deep structure is to use an analogy of stem cells. Stem cells have the amazing ability to transform themselves into any type of tissue or organ. Similarly, knowing the deep structure of your presentation means that you know your subject so well, and how each segment of that subject relates to each part of your presentation at the deepest level possible, that the presenter has the ability to change the presentation "on the fly" based on the immediate feedback he or she is receiving from the audience. For example, if the presenter perceives that there are more pragmatists in the audience, the presentation automatically becomes more pragmatic. This is called "attunement"—the audience and presenter are mutually attuned to each other's needs, wants, goals, and desires. Then, for example, when you are asked a question, you are able to come up with just the right example, story, simulation, metaphor, and/or research study to best answer that question.

When the deep structure is just right, all of the elements of the presentation work together perfectly. Master_Presenters also use the deep structure to help make their sub-audiences into one unified whole as the following examples point out.

In Olympic figure skating, a perfect score from the judges is 6.0 in two categories: technical merit and artistic impression. Les Brown achieved perfect 6.0 from all those in attendance in both technical merit and artistic impression at the National Speakers Association 2000 convention in Washington, D.C. Not only was his presentation one of the most masterful presentations that Brad has ever had the pleasure of seeing, Les stopped at critical points in the presentation and told the audience exactly how he crafted each element of his presentation and then fully explained the "why" behind the "how."

The first lesson Les Brown taught was that our audience is really made up of sub-audiences and that your job as a presenter is to make that audience into one unified whole. When you, as a presenter, enter a room your audience is divided by the amount of energy they have, their ability to attend to the presentation depending on how many other things they have going on in their lives, by gender, by income level, by race, and by how predisposed or prejudiced they feel towards you and the topic you are presenting. As presenters we have to make that collection of sub-audiences into one unified audience—and transforming disparate audiences into one audience is Les Brown's forté.

The three techniques that Les had mastered to making disparate audiences into one audience are: the use of quotes and affirmations, making a commitment, and affirming that commitment by shaking the hand of the person sitting on your left and right.

Early in his presentation, Les asked the audience to speak aloud the words to a powerful quotation. Hearing Les's voice intermingled with the members of the audience's voices was very powerful. The words were powerful and the chorus with the audience hearing itself made them more powerful still. Think of the powerful words from Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech, "I Have a Dream." In your mind, hear Dr. King say those words. Now hear the same words spoken by Dr. King while being echoed by the thousands of people in his audience.

To connect with your audience rather than merely speaking to them, Les suggests that when you make a profound point, you hammer it home by asking the audience members to shake hands with the person on their left and state their intention to, for example, make a meaningful difference. Then ask the audience members to shake hands with the person on their right and again state their intention to make a meaningful difference. This has a wonderful effect of bonding each person with the person on their left and right. The audience members can also hear this same activity going on in the background all around them. What you can hear, if you listen carefully enough, is that all of the sub-audiences in the room are in the process of becoming one unified audience. We have never heard anyone do this better than Les Brown and you can hear it too by listening to his tape Presentation Magic by the Motivator.

A second example is how Harold Taylor unifies his audience with humor, using his hilarious wit to poke fun at himself. Soon everyone is laughing, and at the same time hearing everyone else in the room laughing serves to unify his audience.

We use surveys and ask the audience to raise their hands in response to one or two pertinent questions such as, "How many of you would like to double your effectiveness as presenters?" or, "Raise you hand if you let your own personal fear keep you from being as powerful a presenter as you would like to be." When the people in the audience see that everyone is grappling with the same questions and concerns, it has a profound unifying effect on the audience. They can see that there is more that unites them than divides them. One note of caution: This technique can be overused. It only works well if you ask a powerful or profound question.

EXERCISE 7-3

a powerful of profound question.

List any techniques that you have observed or used to unify an audience.

Next, outline at least one technique that you will use to unify the audience in your next presentation.


The result of knowing your deep structure, making sure that all of the elements in the presentation work together perfectly, and making your sub-audiences into one unified whole is flow. In summary, if you want to be a Master_Presenter you must know the deep structure of your presentation—not only what elements are contained within, but how and why they fit together so well.


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