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Tips for getting started on that presentation.

February 9, 2010

In the beginning…

Okay, you’ve just been told that you’re doing a presentation a few days from now. So, you fire up PowerPoint and start making slides. Don’t do it–step away from the keyboard and no one gets hurt. 😉

Seriously, while that’s what too many of us do, it’s the wrong response and, I believe, one of the main reasons our presentations fall short.

The right response is to start thinking about the presentation—an analysis step first. I’m convinced that this is the most crucial step if you want to end up with a high-impact presentation. I also think failure here is how we get presentations that would be great if given to a different audience, presentations with no “flow,” and presenters who leave their audiences wondering why they care.

There are lots of tools you can use for this step—experiment and decide what works but stay away from PowerPoint. Used appropriately, PowerPoint is fine as a presentation delivery tool, but it’s a lousy tool for this analysis step. For me, the most common tool here is just a piece of paper and a pencil. I divide the paper into three columns and write one word at the top of each column—one for each of the three things every presenter needs to consider:

  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Message

At this stage I’m making no attempt to organize what I write beyond just categorizing my thoughts into those three areas. In each area there are specific things that need to be considered and the good news is that although every presentation has to be different, the questions to ask yourself in the analysis are virtually constant.

Follow-up posts to this will look at each of those categories and the list of questions I ask myself as I work through the analysis step.

So, the next time you find that you’re going to do a presentation, step away from the keyboard. Get some paper, a whiteboard, a pad of sticky notes… or whatever you find works. Do the analysis and, in the end, your audience will thank you.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Eddie permalink
    February 10, 2010 19:38

    Dick –
    Good stuff! Looking forward to hearing more on the topic of analysis. Would also at some point love to see more about actually constructing slides (obviously once one has done a thoughtful job with the analysis!)



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