The TLSM model is a practical method to prepare business presentations or other business communication. The method has been proven to lead to more concise and impactful presentations that take less time to prepare. This article is a short introduction to the model and its origin.

Why do we need a model?

Presentations are one of the most important communication tools for managers and professionals.  The average employee spends 25% of his time on presentations. Yet 74% of business presentations have little or no added value. These presentations are a waste of time; they irritate the audience and lead to suboptimal business decisions.

In recent years we have become aware of the importance of storytelling and good presentation skills. But this hasn’t solved the problem: most business presentations are still overloaded, unclear, and often lack a sense of purpose.  How can our business decisions be sharp, if the presentations they are based on, are not?


The story

Having become aware of the above problem, a large bank asked my company to find a solution. We studied all the literature but couldn’t find a method that would do the trick. That was when I started to study cognitive psychology: how the human brain processes information. By turning that process around, I devised a new method to develop the content for a presentation.

TTP_New Illustrations_1.9 copyThe results exceeded all expectations. The approach lead to more effective presentations that take much less time to prepare. I spent another two and a half years developing the method further, and searching for scientific research to support my claims, until it was published by Financial Times Publishing in October 2014 as the book “Presentation Thinking & Design”. Meanwhile I started teaching the method at several business schools, and together with my colleagues, have helped numerous large organisations to implement our approach.

The TLSM method continues to evolve. It is much more than a loose series of tips and tricks: it is a different, structured, objective way of thinking. If the method is applied properly, presentations become shorter and yield better results. Moreover, they take less time to prepare (-30%). (see references below).

The method has proved to be useful in many types of communication, not just presentations. It helps to crystallize strategic thinking and make complex subjects easier to understand.


What’s new?

The structured approach.

The TLSM method differs from any other method because it embodies a structured approach, combining logic, storytelling and design thinking.  It offers a practical 4-phase method to prepare a successful business presentation. In it’s more detailed form the method consists of 12 design steps.

A balance between objective content, and subjective story.

Storytelling is hot. Yet in most business meetings, the factual content is more important than the packaging. The TLSM model clearly separates the two. It focuses first on the selection, structure and logic of the objective information. The more subjective story and design elements are addressed at a later stage in the process.  The TLSM method helps the presenter to find the perfect balance between information and story; between content and form.

Everything should be made as simple as possible – but not simpler.

Everyone agrees that communication should be kept short and simple. But is that really so? Business decisions often require detailed information and sometimes people need to see the details in order to understand the big picture. The right balance is very difficult to find and varies from one audience to another. The TLSM method helps to find that balance. It helps to select and structure content in such a way, that the quantity and detail of information can easily be tailored for each audience. Reports and presentations become scalable and can be adapted for a different audience with minimal effort.

No time wasted on slides and documents.

The production of slides and countless iterations with different wordings are often a waste of time and energy. The TLSM method minimizes the time spent on slides and iterations through a clever planning and staged design.


The TLSM method at a glanceTTP_New Illustrations_1.9

The TLSM method consists of 4 phases (or 12 steps), each with their own mindset. The method can be used on the phase-level for quick presentations, or on the step-level for more important or more complex presentations.

1.     The Thinking

In the first phase, the author focuses on the audience, the goal and the strategy. It requires a more philosophical way of thinking and is probably the most important phase. It offers a structured approach to understand your audience, clarify your purpose, set objectives at the right level, and plot a strategy to achieve your goal.

2.     The Logic

This phase helps the presenter to define the objective content of the presentation. The presenter will create a set of logically structured messages. The rules to select and structure this information are derived from insights in cognitive and influence psychology. The approach not only structures the argument, but also makes the presentation scalable. Above all it helps the presenter to overcome the curse of knowledge. The presenter gets a clearer view of the content and how it will be understood by the audience.

3.     The Story

By adding subjective elements, phase 3 turns the objective argumentation into an interesting story that will catch the attention, make the content easier to digest, and, most importantly, make it stick into the audiences’ memory. This requires a more creative, empathic mindset. Only a very few people have the natural ability to turn a message into an interesting story, but our proposed approach with story handles, visualization and bridging, will help any presenter to turn his information into a story.

4.     The Media

It is only in the final phase that the  focus switches to the production of documents, slides or other aids. This requires a more productive mindset. As the content has already been fully defined in earlier phases, the production of slides and documents is optimized and can therefore be easily delegated or outsourced.


Some Reactions

Julian Birkinshaw, Professor, London Business School:

“Ed Gruwez has developed a simple and compelling framework for helping you design and deliver your presentation, and he also explains why his ideas make sense. However skilled you think you are, I guarantee this will help you to become a better presenter”.   

Ifen Chiang, Global Director Commercial Excellence, Nutricia, Danone:

‘Finally there is a method to reveal the most powerful and easiest way to get your presentations right. In fact, it is not just about presentation, but also about transforming complex concepts into a set of crisp and compelling messages, which is essential for anyone who needs to communicate across a big organization. A must!’

Florent Edouard, Director Sales Force Excellence, AstraZeneca Japan:

“I saw a clear uplift in presentation quality after we used Ed’s support to educate and train our teams. The presentations became crisper, shorter, to the point and impactful.”

Francis Peene, Head of Change, Bank for the Future-programme, BNP Paribas Fortis:

“The art lies in its simplicity! Ed is a master in his approach to design content”

Nicolas Filatieff, Director Marketing Clients & products, BNP Paribas Fortis:

“It helps any level in the organization to develop neat and impactful presentations, but also brings a breakthrough approach on slideshow productivity.”

Dominique Vercraeye, Managing Director, TNS Belgium

“THe TNS-mission is to consult with business and policy leaders helping them to  take  better decisions.   Reporting and presenting our research findings, insights, conclusions and recommendations with impact have become the key success criteria  for valuing our service. The TLSM method, allowed us to work in a more efficient and  structured way ( =lower cost) , resulting in  more effective  ( = greater impact ) research presentations and reports. It has transformed the way my company approaches presentations. “

Phillip GJ Vandervoort, Executive Vice president, Proximus

”This (method) will revolutionize the way you think about and execute presentations. The insights will maximize your impact!”

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