Create your presentations as a writing process

There's a lot that should happen before your deliver a presentation.

Step away from the keyboard!

Instead, start thinking of writing a presentation as a process where you should only start creating your visual aids (whether they’re slides or something else) late in the game.

The moment you learn about a presentation you’re going to deliver is not the time to fire up PowerPoint and start typing out bullet points. At this early phase in the process of developing your talk you’re probably not even sure what your presentation is actually about, and you certainly shouldn’t be sure that you’re going to wind up using slides. Besides, PowerPoint is a lousy place to work on developing your ideas. The fact that it’s so linear (slide one, slide two, slide three) makes it a difficult tool for brainstorming, exploring ideas, moving them around and editing them. In our experience people get so attached to their slides once they’ve started creating them that they don’t make a lot of the changes that would improve their work– something about PowerPoint just looks “final” to many people.

The other element where drafting a talk in PowerPoint really fails is in accounting for the “performance” part of a presentation. It doesn’t give presenters a good format for planning what they’ll be doing during the talk; the jokes they’ll tell, how they’ll work with the audience, what they’ll be doing as they stand in front of the room. It really encourages presenters to focus narrowly on their slides, and presentations suffer from the lack on an overall plan.

Every presenter will have slightly different working methods. My initial brainstorming and working out of his thesis often takes place in the shower, but that isn’t going to work for everyone. Still, we encourage you to follow this rough outline while developing your presentations. This doesn’t mean that every stage of this process requires a lot of time, or that you need to do all of them for every little presentation. But each step here is something worth considering, even if only momentarily.

We’ll look at the different parts over the next couple of days.

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