Planning has to be the most valuable (and most avoided) step of the communicating process. How many people actually set pen to paper before writing or creating?
I have been trying to get into the habit of planning more effectively. Recently, I created a presentation for a museum talk series (post to follow). I read in several places that the best place to start is to storyboard.
Exhausting? Yes. Valuable? Yes. I came up with a few pointers along the way. These are not my own, but wrangled through several sources. Presentation Zen is an excellent resource. I’ve summarized them in my own way.
To create an effective presentation:
- What are you being asked to do? This question should include simple things like: size and makeup of audience, level of knowledge of audience, length of talk, time and date, what style of presentation, and what materials you have access to or need to bring.
- What do you want your audience to take away? Think about your main points and arguments. If you were to hear these people chatting about your talk on the street, what will they say to their friends?
- How will you lead them on this journey? Think about the knowledge level of your audience and what they will need to experience to get to your take away message. Realize how much effort will need to go in from your audience to get there, and put in MUCH more to help them get there. For example: if I am talking to kindergarteners about pollination, I am taking them from 0-60. I know that they love plants and animals, and I can use this strength to help them on their journey. I will need to step out of my comfort zone (put in effort) to help them reach their knowledge potential. Really spend some time on this step. **This is the hardest step. If done with oomph, the other steps will fall into place easily.
- Outline. Take your planned journey and write it into a logical outline with topics and subtopics or sections. Write anything that will be useful to you as you present and form materials (websites, video titles, etc)
- Storyboard and map. Layout your presentation and time. How much do you want to focus on each point? Physically DRAW each slide if it’s a powerpoint, map if it is an outdoor presentation, and draft any materials. Estimate 1 slide per minute on powerpoint to start.
- Go to your computer. You are going here now and not before so you don’t have to be farting around on the computer during your creative process. Save your eyes and wrists! This shouldn’t take long. Create a template for your slides to follow that matches your audience and will show off your topic effectively. Or, forgo it and just do one photo per slide. Use pictures and charts in high resolution. If you can’t read the text on a chart, edit it. Use rulers and margins to help you align your work.
- Delete almost all text off of your slides. If the audience can hear it from you, take it out. If it reinforces your point and will help, keep it in. Limit yourself to less than 10 words on less than half of your slides, if possible. If you must include more text, use animations effectively to help you wrangle what your audience is paying attention to. Keep text slides fairly neutral and spaced out.
- References! Cite all sources of material that isn’t yours. Be religious about this. You can place it right on each slide in the bottom, 50% grey, 10pt. Easy peasy.
- Practice. A lot. Read out loud to yourself. Time yourself. Use the time recording tools on powerpoint to help you see which slides you spend the most time on, and maybe want to add a few more in. Try it out on a colleague, friend, spouse, or pet. Ask them targeted feedback questions like: Do I have a weird tick when I am unsure (so, um, like)? What am I doing with my hands? Am I looking at the audience? Do I speak too slowly or quickly? Think of a few for yourself. Encourage them to ask you questions on your topic and get engaged.
- Prepare. Get sleep and a good meal. Ensure you have sufficient time to get yourself set up. Have all of your materials ready to go. Have a back up plan – what happens if the power goes out? Breathe. Pee. Bring water. Invite a friend.
Now you should have a well planned, organized, and beautiful presentation. Remember to alter your presentation for each audience. No two are the same – be prepared to ad-lib as needed to keep everyone interested and engaged.