PowerPoint or Stream of Consciousness?
Before you create a presentation, you have to ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Most people are trying to transform their idea into reality – it could be that their prospect needs to embrace this new technology or that they need to adopt a best practice that you've seen work in a similar facility across town. Whatever your goal may be, don't start with PowerPoint. A lot of people say, “Oh, I've got a presentation tomorrow, let me just open up PowerPoint and start typing.” If you do that, the presentation may wind up looking like stream-of-consciousness journalism.
So how do you prepare a presentation? Make a mind map. Write all your ideas on Post-It notes and organize them on a wall or whiteboard. Figure out how your key ideas link together most effectively and re-organize them until they flow logically from one idea to the next. You probably can't have more than three or four key messages in a PowerPoint presentation without losing the attention of the audience, so it may be necessary to trim the fat.
Once you have that general outline mapped out, search for images that highlight the theme of each idea. I like to use iStockPhoto to find images for PowerPoint presentations. Make sure the images you choose are visually captivating and memorable, not predicable.
Once you’ve completed your mind map and found photos, you can open up PowerPoint and assemble the presentation. It’s OK to include your key ideas in writing, but don’t make bullet points for everything you plan to say. The audience will be far more engaged if most of the content is spoken as opposed to written.
After you’ve assembled all the pieces, remind yourself what your intention is and run through the presentation with that in mind. It may still need a little revision, but I can guarantee you’ll be miles ahead of the guy who just opened up PowerPoint and dumped his ideas on a bunch of slides.
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