Let me know if this sounds familiar… you have a presentation to give. You immediately begin thinking about your slide deck. You pull out the last presentation you gave on the topic, you dust it off and realize that some of the same slides will work. So you are on your way. Then you look at a few other colleagues’ decks, pull a few slides from theirs. Getting closer to done. You create a title slide and an agenda slide, and you have enough to get through the presentation. You are ready to go!
Sound familiar? This is the standard method of preparation for many people. And it is completely flawed.
Most people throw a slide deck together and then just speak to the slides. They let the slides they have chosen drive the story. But the best presenters flip that around. The best presenters create a story first and then create a deck that brings that story to life. The best writers don’t illustrate the book first, and then write to the illustrations (unless, of course it is a book ABOUT the illustrations.) No, the best writers write the story first and then illustrate it in whatever way is appropriate.
Don’t open the PowerPoint. Your best friend is a clean white board or a clean sheet of paper. Think about what you are trying to achieve with the presentation. Think about your main message, the value and the benefit of what you are talking about. Think about who the audience is and what they care about (or don’t care about). Create a headline. Describe the problem or the opportunity. Keep the story simple and easy to follow. Include enough detail to prove your point, and not one bit more.
Once you have written this all out on a white board, then creating slides becomes relatively easy. And you may even end up using some of the same slides you were going to use before. But at least now you are choosing those slides for a reason.
Don’t let the slides dictate the story. Let the story dictate the slides.
Photo by Stu Spivack adapted under the following license