How to Make a Presentation (part 1)

Over the years I've made quite a lot of presentations. The ratings of my last presentations at conferences have been quite favorable, and people regularly ask permission to steal some of my slides. So it seems I'm doing at least something right. And that's why I'd like to share my process with you…

Step 1: collect topics

No matter how I decide about my topics (I usually take them from my blog and my book,) I start by collecting them on sticky notes. Each sticky note is a topic, and I put them all on the outside of my bathroom wall. (Why there, you may wonder? Well, because they tend not to stick on the inside.)

At this time I don't worry about individual slides. One topic may need five slides later, other topics may need to be combined. I don't care. I only think about topics and how they relate to one another.

Note that "topics" here means anything I want to tell the audience. Including all kinds of simple things, examples, statistics, etc. That's why I end up with a lot of sticky notes here.

Step 2: create structure

When I'm happy about the topics, I create a structure by clearly defining sections (which will be turned into the agenda later) and the logical flow of the topics within a section (are they in a natural order?).

I clearly indicate sections (and sub-sections) with a different color of sticky notes.

This is the perfect moment to remove topics (when they don't fit well in the flow of the presentation,) or to add extra topics (to smooth transitions between other topics) where this is needed.

Step 3: make story

Then it is time to decide what the conclusion is of the presentation (so that everything in the presentation supports that conclusion.) Basically I ask myself two important questions:

  • What is my point?
  • Why should people care?

If I cannot answer these questions clearly I will know my presentation is flawed. Asking myself these questions usually results in me making some more changes, until I'm happy about the message that I want to get across.

I also take time to fashion metaphors, and to think about a nice introduction. I ask myself: what stories am I going to tell the audience to introduce the topics, and to keep people engaged throughout the presentation?

For example: in my last presentation (Big-Ass View on Competence) I used traffic management as a metaphor, and I came up with stories about car driving, bicycles, roundabouts, traffic police, and even witches on brooms.

go to part 2 – go to part 3

p.s. While you're waiting for the next installment of this little series, please order the book Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds. It's plain awesome. 

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