When it’s time to collect and create information, resist the temptation to sit down with presentation software; it’s not quite time for that yet.

You’ll need to generate presentation ideas through a variety of techniques. The first, most obvious idea that comes up is not usually the best one. You need to proceed tenaciously, continuing to generate ideas related to the theme until all the possibilities are exhausted. Often, your best, most clever ideas won’t appear until the third or fourth round.

You’ll use a mental process called divergent thinking, which permits the creation of ideas to proceed in every imaginable direction. It encourages the development of content that’s new and original. This phase is messy, so set neatness aside and just stay in this unstructured space while you scout for new ideas and uncover existing ones. Broadening your search to increase the number of possibilities allows for unexpected breakthroughs, so freely explore every idea—and don’t make judgments!

collect and organize many ideas - post-it notes

Generate as Many Presentation Ideas as Possible:

Idea collection: If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can review presentations created by your peers; but there is a lot more information out there. Echoing what others have already said isn’t the best way to establish a connection with your audience. It’s fine to collect ideas that are readily available, but better to purposefully mine all the other relevant resources for inspiration.

When prospectors pan for gold, they scoop up a pan full of dirt and gently agitate it until the gold, which is heavier, sinks to the bottom. They don’t know in advance if any given pan will yield a gold nugget, so they collect “dirt” from many locations. It’s like the idea collection phase. Examine industry studies, data from competitors, news articles and blogs, surveys—everything. Search both deep and wide, gathering as much data as you can from competitors’ documents, so you’ll be able to develop a position that differentiates you from the crowd. Learn everything you can about your subject, and extend your search into tangential areas for additional insights.

Idea creation: Creating new ideas is different from collecting ones that already exist. To succeed you should be curious, persistent, and willing to take risks. You need to think instinctively —from your gut—and let yourself be guided by your intuition. Turn to your creative side for ideas that no one has ever associated with your big idea before—and even ideas that have never existed. Accept that when you probe the limits of what’s possible, you’ll be working in a bit of a fog. It’s impossible to see the future clearly at first. Stay open-minded and remain willing to explore the unknown. You’re experimenting, risking, dreaming, and creating new possibilities.

Grab a sheet of paper or a stack of sticky notes and jot down everything you can imagine that supports your idea. The goal is to create a vast amount of ideas, and you’ll be prompted to add even more over the next several pages! But don’t worry; you’ll filter, synthesize, and categorize all of them and craft a meaningful whole later on.

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