How I build a presentation

Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

Because of the work I do, I often have to package presentations and, just as often, attend presentations made by others.

My primary tool is Keynote. Powerpoint, I can’t stand it. The tool indeed affects how you produce content, and both Keynote and PowerPoint do not disprove this paradigm.

My workflow when preparing a presentation has been the same for years and undergoes slight variation, primarily due to the type of content I need to represent.

My first step is to collect, in the form of notes, all the information, and concepts I need to transfer. In doing this, I also try to value the data or information. I generally use three grades: meaningful, significant, and essential. Anything that falls outside this categorization stays off the slides and ends in a supporting document. More on this later.

Once I have finished the list of things I intend to say, I begin to give a logical form to the arguments, and I always try to work as if I were writing a story or a screenplay. I think a presentation should always tell a story. The byproduct of these notes is the first draft of my presentation script. The narrative I will due delivering the presentation to my audience.

These two first steps of making a presentation always happen on paper, and I never think about doing this activity on my personal computer. I generally use a pencil because, at least in this first stage, there are many continuous corrections.

When the story and its components are evident in my head, and I am convinced that everything stands, I begin to assemble the presentation.

With each concept, I try to associate a slide type perfect for communicating the specific content. A sentence, some data, an idea, a result. Each story element must have its particular language, and I always try to find the most effective method to represent it.

Those who have had the opportunity to attend one of my presentations will remember that my slides are always shallow in content density and make great use of photographic and graphic elements. I am not interested in clogging the slide with words, numbers, and graphics. The slide supports what I am saying. People have to listen to me and not read what is written on the screen. They will get to read that in the supporting document.

It is essential to notice that choosing a picture for a slide is not trivial. There are plenty of resources to find the appropriate image for the concept you want to reinforce. It is essential to choose carefully.

At this point, the presentation is ready, but the work is not finished. 

It is now time to associate the main presentation with a side document that contains all those elements I did not include earlier. The form of the document can be the most varied. It can simply be other slides in a section at the bottom of the main presentation. It can be a text document. It can be spreadsheets. In short, it all depends on the intended purpose and the content that needs to be communicated.

Studying the side document is as important as knowing the script of your presentation. If you are talking numbers, you must know those numbers.

Those who attended the presentation received both documents.

Side note. When I present, especially at conferences, I always avoid the very classic “About Me” slide. If you have come to listen to what I have to say, I imagine you know who I am and what I am about to tell you. This way, I avoid feeding my ego, which is already big enough, and I gain two or three minutes to discuss what I want.

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