The Happy Valley Presentation Structure

“I still can’t understand why we need this” said Lee.

This left Marina exasperated.

She’d spent a considerable amount of time listing what difficulties a new Customer Database System would solve.

“What doesn’t he understand about ‘greater efficiency?’, mused Marina.


Have you ever found yourself wondering why your message didn’t seem to resonate with your listeners?

It’s likely due to how you structure your presentation.

Donald Miller, in his book, ‘Storybrand’, insists on setting the problem at the beginning, then your plan, closing with the successful ending.

I use that in my Storytelling Telling Course (buy it here for the price of a two-person take away from Deliveroo).

However, some subjects fit better with a different structure.

And that’s where the Happy Valley fits in.

Happy Valley isn’t only a cracking crime series on telly.  It’s also the name I’ve put to a presentation structure that gets buy-in.


When to use the Happy Valley

Use this when the desired pay off is stronger than the challenge.

For example, people may be quite happy with the status quo. They don’t see this as such a problem. You need to persuade them that there’s a better way of operating.

To do this, clearly show the contrast between their ideal reality and their current situation with the Happy Valley structure.


The Happy Valley Structure

1. State the dream at the top of the valley with a desired outcome:

“Imagine if, Yashin, you were handed over a client and everything you needed to know from designs, difficulties, preferences, costs was available at the touch of a button?”

If you don’t have The Big Goal or Ultimate Pay-off at the beginning, your audience don’t see the gap between where they want to go and where they are.

They need to see the discrepancy, the need for action.

This goal needs to be stated as specific and personal.  Stating ‘greater efficiencies’ isn’t as effective as asking Lee to imagine finding all invoice, booking and planning details at the touch of a button.


2.  Describe the problems or challenges with the current reality:

“That would be lovely but what’s happening at the moment is that it’s taking days to get all that information.

So, now, we’re descending into the reality, the current situation which sits in stark contrast to the imagined vision of the future.

3. Go deeper into the valley by focusing on this contrast, to set it against the current situation:

In the example with Lee and Marina, the speaker could mention:

  1. scattered information sources;
  2. information about the client, shared with others, that you find out only while speaking to them;
  3. the time you lose from other priorities trying to get what you need.


4. Go up the valley: introduce the actions that will achieve the outcome you stated in number 1.

“We’re introducing a CRM system that will help you to…”

Describe features only after you’ve outlined the desired goal and the specific issues that the initiative solves.


Remember this:  people don’t buy on features, they buy on the basis of a problem solved or / and a desired outcome.  The Happy Valley structure will prevent you from regailing your listeners with buttons and algorithms.  That’s a different presentation.


How to conclude

Most people get to the end of the middle of a presentation, then stop.    They stare at their audience like a stunned rabbit, asking, “Any Questions?”.  Usually, there are none.  Then, the whole talk dissolves like sugar in tea.

Avoid this by applying this conclusion stucture.

Be remembered for the right reasons, have your key message stick AND drive your audience to action: apply this conclusion stucture. 


Photo by Krivec Ales:

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