I was recently working with a client and asked her to write out the structure for her presentation.  This included her main message, her content and content chunks. She sent me a good initial outline as to what she wanted to say, but it’s how she organized it that was most fascinating to me. She organized it as slides, even though her presentation outline was all text in an email.

The outline was what she thought should be on each slide. The title for each section started with Slide #1, Slide #2 etc. Under each slide number was a topic title and some bullet points. Dam you Microsoft!

Her default thinking for organizing her presentation was a PowerPoint template.  Maybe this is why so many business pros have these bulleted list type presentation visuals. Even when not using PowerPoint their thinking defaults to a PowerPoint template.

Click to add title, click to add bullet points.  This default takes you down the bulleted list, traditional presentation road. By the way that road began in the 1940’s with the overhead projector.  Bulleted list style presentations are usually pretty boring. We have to avoid going down that old tired road if we want to be effective presenters in today’s business world. (effective = memorable)

At the beginning of your presentation creation process stay away from PowerPoint or even thinking about slides. Start with writing out your main message for your audience. What is the one thing they have to remember from your presentation? What are the points that support that message? What 3 or 4 buckets (content chunks) does all your material fall into?

Lay this out in either a Word doc or on sticky notes. Once that is done, then you can start to think about visual support (don’t think about slides yet). Your visual supports will primarily be about amplifying or clarifying your main points not just listing them out. Your visual supports can include videos, props or the actual product, a flip chart or maybe PowerPoint slides.  Make the decisions about visual supports after you have all your content, main message and content chunks written down. What visual supports are best to support my message for this audience?

In the early design process stay far away from PowerPoint. Creating the visual supports for your presentation is the last thing you should do.

Joe Pops