Here’s a reasonable-sounding process to go through when prepping for a big presentation:
- Figure out what you want to say
- Write this up in slides, with some combination of words, charts, and images
- Refine those slides
- Rehearse the presentation
Unfortunately this doesn’t work.
What happens is that slides that were going to become better, the slides that had too many words that you were going to fix….they make their way into your “draft” presentation. Then you fall into the trap of presenting your slides instead of presenting your story – the slides start to win. Unless you have the gumption to throw out half or all of these slides at this point, your goose is cooked.
Another approach is 1-4-5-2-3. That is, figure out what you’re going to say, work on that (no slides), and then rehearse it with your colleagues. You can even stand up like everyone else does in rehearsals, and have a single slide projected, with the title of your presentation and nothing else. Use the rehearsal to refine the story, and then create slides that support your story.
The reason the first approach seems like it will work is because we think writing slides is a shorthand version of writing a Word doc, but it’s not. We also get so distracted by slide creation that we underplay the value of standing in front of people and telling them, very simply, the story we want to tell.
Slides are nothing more and nothing less than a visual aid to support your story. If you go about creating them the normal way, you’ll end up with a story to support your slides, instead of the other way around.