Colon structure for presentations!

Back on the wagon!  Missed us?

We’ve been away for a whole month?  Why?  Because over on the Presentation Genius site we’ve been running Confidence Month.  It’s been all over twitter and youtube, too… but onward to new content here!

No, not this kind of colon! Presenting with pain at your doc!

No, not this kind of colon!

It’s called the Colon Technique, and although I’ve described it here in terms of the (painful-but-traditional) 60 seconds networking introduction the principle applies to bigger presentations too.  All you have to do is scale it up and translate it a bit…

Update box
… here are the main blog posts of the Confidence Month

The Colon Technique

Figuring out what to say in your 60 seconds of fame can be tricky – sometimes almost impossible. Fortunately there’s a simple technique that makes it (a lot!) easier.

All you have to do is ask yourself a series of questions and wrap your 60 seconds around the answers.

What does your audience want to know?

The biggest wrong way is to tell people what you do. Sorry, but no one cares.

They don’t care that you’re an accountant; they don’t care that you’re an NLP Master Practitioner; and they don’t care that you’re a fitness instructor. Unless they’re married to you, you’re not important to them. Like it or not, admit it or not, people are sitting there thinking that.

Okay, I’m overstating the case for the sake of getting you interested, but you get the idea.

  • What they actually care about is not that you’re an accountant: they care you can take away the pain of having to do their accounts and – hopefully – of paying so much tax.
  • They don’t care about your NLP certificate: they care that you might be able to help them feel more confident.
  • They don’t care that you’re a fitness instructor: but they might be interested in the fact that you can help them shed the pounds.

Look closely at the way I’ve set up those last three points. Half way through each sentence is a colon (:). A colon is used to separate two ideas that are so closely related a full stop is too powerful a piece of punctuation. That brings us to a tried and trusted technique for providing a structure for your presentation – the Colon Method.

The beauty of this method is that it can be used for single sentences all the way up to full minutes and it looks like this:

The pain is, of course, the thing that your (potential) clients don’t want to do, don’t like doing or are just plain rubbish at. After the colon comes the solution to that pain, which just happens to be you. What an amazing coincidence (ahem!).

Try it out in a number of different ways. How about this approach for an accountant (sorry if you’re an accountant, I’m not having a go at you!)?


“I know a lot of people hate filling in their tax returns. They fight with them for hours and hours, time when they could be out earning more money, but HMRC estimate that despite this, about 35% of them are wrong! That’s more time, and more effort and more hassle spent sorting it out. The opportunity cost of that sort of thing runs to thousands of pounds a year – and so might the real, cash costs!”

Colon – take a breath; have a pause; make ‘em wait… and then give the 


“Fortunately, I can do all of that for you. You get the benefit of not losing sleep and – what’s more – I’m so confident that if I can’t save you more than my fee in terms of tax saved, I’ll not charge the difference!”

How does that feel?  Obviously, you shouldn’t take it too literally! I’ve used my own turn of phrase and I’ve made up the 35% figure, but hopefully it gives you a starting point to develop your own ideas.

Of course the five-second version is even more pithy:


“How many of you like doing your taxes? Yeah, I thought not!”

Colon – take a breath; have a pause; make ‘em wait… and then give the….


“Fortunately, I can do it for you so that you don’t have to – and save you money in the process.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not pretending that this is the only technique out there. It’s perfectly possible to do a great 30-second pitch using any number of tools – but hopefully this one will be helpful if you’re struggling to get yours to work.

So what would my own colon technique pitch be for this post?
How about this: Presentation when you’re networking are often a PITA and rubbish: this techniques helps with both of those things.

Simon is one of the UK's most highly regarded presentation skills trainers and professional speakers in the fields of presenting, confidence and emotional resilience.