Writing a presentation doesn’t mean you have license to transcribe every thought that comes into your head. No matter the medium, effective communication requires planning, thought, and skillful execution. That means dusting off the writing skills that you might have set aside while you were cranking out fragmented bullet points.
Sound like more work? After all, those bullet points were relatively easy to squeeze out. But if you are taking the time to communicate your idea in the best possible format, it makes sense to maximize the use of that format.
Don’t assume that your readers will follow your lead because your idea is important to you. Use words and visuals to explain to your audience why your idea is important to them.
Have an Editorial Process
Some presentations can be created by you alone. But when the stakes are high for your presentations to make a big impact, having an editorial process is helpful.
First, following an editorial process will help both you and your team focus on the main message you want to communicate. Second, it will focus your attention on a single task and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
To set up your editorial process, step back and look at the project as a whole. Define the intent of the slidedoc, and stay focused on the best way to convey that information to your audience. Then, follow these three steps to completing the content: ideate, create, and refine.
Step 1: Ideate
Our process happens to start in PowerPoint®. I outline the sections that I think will be my presentation’s main components. Then, under those sections, I add pages (slides) with the titles of topics I want to cover. In high school, many of us learned how to structure reports by writing the points we wanted to cover on 3″x5″ index cards and arranging the order. I still use that method, only I do it in PowerPoint®
Once you identify relevant topics that support your idea, invite the rest of your team in to make sure you’ve covered all the main points and confirm that the overall flow of your slidedoc works. Again, it’s important to think about your presentation as a whole. Ask yourself, “How will my audience navigate through this?”
Many times at Duarte, we paste the entire presentations on the wall and rearrange the individual slides until we have a logical order. Solid structure creates an impactful experience to guide the audience through the presentation.
This is also where I start thinking about how I want the reader to feel as they go through the material.
Step 2: Create
After you’ve captured your team’s ideas around topics and established a rough story flow, spill all your thoughts on the page. Don’t hold back; it doesn’t have to be fully formed yet. Simply pour out everything that comes to mind. Use each page as a bucket to collect concepts and ideas for each topic.
By following this path, you’re creating a wealth of ideas and information that you can choose from in the next step. You’re also speeding past the mental blocks that can keep you from capturing your best ideas.
For now, aim for quantity instead of quality.
Exhaust your subject—quality will come with the next step.
Step 3: Refine
Once you have your ideas collected, refine them. This is the time to craft your copy and make sure every word and every sentence contributes to the main idea on the page and the presentation’s Big Idea.
Once you’re here, it’s a good time to invite your team back in. Make sure they have context, but also encourage them to bring a critical eye and represent the needs of your audience.
At Duarte, we repost everything on the board and take a second look at the flow. With a more fully fleshed out version, we refine the presentation until we feel we have the right flow and right information on each slide.
During this step, we also ensure that the information is chunked properly. This attention to the big picture pays off in reader comprehension.