Written by Suzanne Guthrie

Experienced presenters, and those who have taken presentation skills training, use the 4 A Approach for structuring opening remarks. This article will give an overview of the 4 A approach by explaining each element and how to use it in a professional presentation. The 4 A’s stand for Audience Hook, Answer, Agenda and Action Request. Together they provide an invaluable tool to logically frame remarks for your listeners which we teach in our onsite presentation training workshop.

Audience Hook
The Audience Hook is designed to engage your listeners by tapping into WHY they would want to sit through your remarks. This portion of your presentation needs to hook into pain or pleasure – specifically pain the listener is experiencing or pleasure they would enjoy. Now in a work context the pain might be a tough problem that needs resolution, whereas the pleasure might be improved confidence in a skill set. Either way, the trick is to use an engagement device such as a question, a statistic, or a story to hook the audience into listening. For example you might ask “Have any of you ever been caught off guard by negative comments during your annual performance review?. Have you ever worried that your job might be at risk due to poor communication with your boss?â€.

Once you’ve hooked the audience, now you need to let them know the answer to their problem – and why you’re just the person to reveal it. The Answer section of your remarks is the time to reveal your solution, your name, and your credentials. For example, you might say “Today we’ll be discussing how to ensure open dialogue between you and your boss to ensure there are never any year-end surprises. My name is Suzanne Guthrie and I am a master consultant in communication skills and conflict resolution. Over the past 10 years I have consulted with dozens of organizations including Fortune 500 companies on workplace communications and published numerous articles on how to avoid communication screw ups at workâ€.

Now that you’ve established you have a solution (and the street cred to back it up), it’s time to give more details of your agenda for the rest of the presentation. We recommend that you use a three point approach to your agenda to help your audience remember key words. The three agenda items should related to the overall solution and provide a framework for your consequent remarks. For example, our speaker might say: “During the course of the next hour we’ll look at three essential aspects of workplace communications so that you’ll never be caught off guard again: Timeliness, Transparency & Totality.â€

Audience Takeaway
Once you’ve revealed the agenda you need to highlight explicitly why this will help your audience. This is time to reinforce what’s in it for them (the audience) and what will they takeaway from your talk. Of course the audience takeaway ties back into the previous three A’s and should not be a surprise to either you the speaker or the audience. Our speaker might wrap up this 4th A saying “By the end of this session you’ll know how to use Timeliness, Transparency & Totality of workplace communications to ensure you have open dialogue with your boss so that you’ll never be caught off guard in important meetings again!â€. You can learn more about presentation skills training by visiting our parent web site at www.boldnewdirections.com or look at www.presentationtraininginstitute.com

Using these four A’s provides invaluable structure and support to your remarks. It also helps listeners engage more deeply, follow your comments, and take away important learning tools. While learning this 4 A Approach takes practice, and frequently requires formal presentation skills training, it is well worth the time invested. You can learn more about tools to grow your presentation skills including training on the 4A’s Approach at www.boldnewdirections.com

About The Author:

Suzanne Guthrie is co-founder of Bold New Directions, a transformational learning company that works with companies to transform people and performance through training solutions including seminars, coaching and keynote events. Bold New Directions specializes in training solutions that build leadership skills, communication skills and resilience at work. You can learn more about Suzanne Guthrie and presentation skills training by visiting the Bold New Directions web site at www.boldnewdirections.com

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  • The National Speakers Association