feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood

How to prepare a presentation when you have no idea where to start

How to prepare a presentation when you have no idea where to start

You’ve been asked to prepare a presentation.

It’s a topic you know a lot about (it certainly should be, otherwise please don’t present).

There’s so much you could say but you have only been allotted 20 minutes.

Where do you start?

Many people instinctively turn to their computer and open their slidewear.

NO! This is not the way to prepare your presentation content.

So how should you prepare?

Here is a 5 step method to follow which encourages your creativity and at the same time allows you to get a good structure that consistently supports your main message.

1. Brainstorm: In this stage there are no rules or restraints. Well, perhaps the only rule is to stay away from your computer. Write all your ideas down on separate pieces of paper/card or post-its – post-its are ideal if you want to later look at all your ideas on the wall. Any idea is good. Let your right brain do its work. Editing can be done later.

2. Identify the key message and group supporting material: In this stage you need to identify a core theme which seems to show up in several of your separate ideas; this will become your key message and should be directly related to what the audience is looking to hear from you. Then group other ideas together. If you can divide your presentation into three sections that’s ideal as we tend to remember things in threes much more easily. So, as your preparation is taking shape, you will have identified a core theme/message with ideally three sections that all support your key message.

3. Storyboard your post-its: The next step is to organize the ideas you are going to keep into a sequence that flows well. With the cards or post-its, you can easily move them around to see where they fit together and where additional material may be needed to ensure the ideas link together coherently.

4. Sketch your visuals/slide ideas: Now that you have organized your post-its into a sequence and you have your main theme and supporting ideas, you need to build on this. This will become the basis of your presentation. Try and include a variety of illustrative content such as stories, facts, quotes, statistics etc. Add in more post-its and imagine each post-it now to be a slide. Make sketches of images you might want to use to support a point. Look to where you can replace words with images.

5. Storyboard on your computer: In the final stage you finally turn to your computer and transfer the content of your sketched visuals onto the slides. Use the slide sorter view to ensure the look of the slides is consistent and that the slides flow and have the right images to support the flow of your talk.

At the end of the day, the success of your presentation will depend on whether the audience understand and assimilate your main idea.

You can have beautifully designed slides but if your key message is not coming through strongly and coherently when you speak, much will be lost.

Take the time to embrace your creativity in the first stages of preparation by brainstorming fully. Then move to storyboarding and drafting your visuals, all away from your computer.

The audience have come to listen to YOU speak. Let the initial birth of your presentation idea come from within you and your creative spirit.

Slideware is only a tool through which to express your idea and get it out to the world.

As Nancy Duarte often says “Our ideas can change the world”, but we need to learn how to get our ideas out so people will listen to them.

This 5 step method can go some way to doing just that!


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My mission is to help employees in multinational companies learn the skills and techniques they need to give outstanding presentations in English and receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood