Steps in writing presentations: Editing your ideas

You don’t want to be critical of your ideas while you’re brainstorming for a presentation, but at some point you’re going to have to figure out what belongs, what doesn’t, and where it goes. We call this the editing phase, and it can be painful; few of us like ripping out our ideas. Most people are terrible at editing themselves and resist it as much as they can. The general failure to edit is why we see so many slides full of junk.

But the editing process can also be liberating. Start by grouping your ideas to figure out what goes together and what doesn’t really belong at all. Narrowing down your ideas gives you a stronger focus and a much better argument in the long run. It’s important to remember that sheer volume of material and information isn’t likely to persuade an audience. They’re much more likely to remember a carefully constructed talk that presents a few important details.

We also use the editing stage in order to figure out how much we’re realistically going to be able to cover in the time we’ve been given. Early in our planning stages we often have lists of exercises and visual aids that never make it into the final product, but that’s OK. What you want to have in the end is the best of your ideas that you can accomplish with the time and resources available.

Presenters who can ruthlessly edit themselves often look like geniuses because they are so spot-on. Audiences only see the good stuff.

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