Steps in writing presentations: Getting a topic and brainstorming ideas

The initial step in creating a presentation is often the quickest –someone just tells you that you’re going to be giving a presentations. If only the rest were that easy.

You get a topic

Every presentation gets its start somewhere, and this is usually the way they begin. You’re assigned one by your boss. You volunteer to do some training. You rent out a ballroom so you can give a lecture on the history of the Smurfs. Your final result may look very different from the original concept but, however you got your topic, you’re going to have to make it work somehow.


The idea of brainstorming may take you back to the days of elementary school, but that doesn’t make it childish. It’s a very helpful tool in allowing you to explore many ideas before you settle on any one thing for your presentation. And in keeping with the old-school methodology, we suggest that you use primitive tools for your brainstorming. A whiteboard and dry-erase markers work great if you have them available.

I’ve long been partial to yellow legal notepads (even before I worked in legal) because of the extra room they give you for scribbling thoughts, and lots of people rely on Post-It notes stuck on their walls for writing down and rearranging their ideas. There are also brainstorming and mind-mapping software tools out there, but sometimes a pen and paper are the best weapons.

The important thing is to write down as many ideas as possible so you have lots of possible avenues to explore and material to mine. What are your themes and how might you address them? How will you interact with the audience? What stories might you tell? What can you use as evidence? If you’ve ever done a brainstorming exercise, you already know that the goal here is to generate as many ideas as possible without making critical decisions about them.

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