Have you ever been in a meeting, virtual or face-to-face, and suddenly found yourself being put on the spot by a question or by being asked for your input? Is it just me, or does this invariably seem to happen during the 30 seconds you “space out” from time-to-time during meetings? Or with the recent rise in remote working, rather than being “spaced out”, you were distracted by a barking dog, ringing doorbell or kid needing assistance with school assignments. If you find yourself in this scenario, one way to organize your thoughts quickly, in a logical, sequential order, is to have a format at your fingertips. One such format is the Universal Format which consists of the following components:


  1. SITUATION: You can substitute Situation with: background; issue; challenge; problem; opportunity; weakness.
  2. ACTION/BENEFIT: Action could include: idea; solution; proposal; strategy; recommendation. Anytime you propose an action, be sure to illuminate the benefit(s) to the audience of doing that action.
  3. EVIDENCE: Back up your action and/or benefit with evidence. It’s not just you saying something-here’s proof it’s accurate. There are a number of different types of evidence. Four of the main forms of evidence are: your professional experience; examples of someone else’s experience; analogies; statistics and facts. Note: analogies work well when you’re trying to convey technical information to a non-technical audience.
  4. CONCLUSION: Your conclusion could include: follow-up; next steps; calendar action: What do we do? When do we do it? Be very specific as to what needs to be done going forward.

One of the nice things about this format is its flexibility. The components don’t have to be in the order listed above. For example, if you’re talking to a high-level audience, you may want to start with the Benefit first, then make the rest of your case. By starting with the benefit, you give your audience a reason to listen to the rest of what you have to say. Having a format allows you to organize your thoughts quickly in a logical, sequential manner.

For more information on organizing your thoughts quickly and presenting them clearly, please visit Communispond’s website at www.communispond.com and check out Executive Presentation Skills® and Executive Presentation Skills AnywhereTM (for virtual situations).


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