May 15, 2014


work-in-progress on a new slide deck (replacing bullets with visuals)
Creating a presentation is easier if you’re familiar with the topic. What if you aren’t? What if you’re creating an all-new presentation? That’s the situation I’ve been in when preparing my talk for The Global Change Initiative on how to profit from doing what’s right.

This five-step process helps. It also works if you’re familiar with a topic.

1. Create An Outline

You may already have many ideas. A mind map helps you capture and organize them. I especially like iThoughts HD for the iPad. I haven’t found a comparable choice for Android.
When your mind map is with you, you can capture fresh thoughts as they strike you (provided you’re not driving!).

With your mind map, you can brainstorm.

As with a speech, a presentation has a beginning (hook), middle (details) and ending (call to action). As your ideas gel, you can arrange your points in a suitable structure with branches and sub-branches. Your presentation is now taking shape.

You may have too much content. That’s fine since you don’t need to use it all.

2. Collect Information

Once you’ve got your outline (and perhaps while you’re creating it), look for information. You can add links to your mind map. That’s what I used to do. Now I’ve started using Evernote to capture web pages. There’s an excellent plugin for your Chrome web browser. Evernote lets you categorize the information, which is very useful. The free plan is a great way to start.

You’ll likely have too much information. That’s fine because it’s organized and might prove to be useful as your presentation evolves.

3. Draft A PowerPoint Presentation With Bullets

Yeah, we know about death by bullet points but they are helpful in drafting a presentation. They’ll be removed later. Bullets are quick to create. The slides are easy to move around to create a good flow.

4. Replace Bullets With Visuals

Bullet points are boring. You won’t win an audience that’s snoring. Now’s the time to add images and move the bullet points to your speaker notes.

Finding the right visuals takes time but isn’t your audience worth the investment? I generally get free photos at and often use screenshots taken with Snagit. I also use Snagit to resize the images (e.g., to 960x540).

5. Refine

This part can be the most time-consuming. You’ll see what works and make adjustments. This is the phase where you work on your speaker notes and how you’ll transition between slides (visually and with your words).

It’s tough to remove a visual or segment you like. I’ll put them at the end of the slide deck in a section called Outtakes. That lessens the pain and preserves the content in case you find a need (perhaps for another presentation).

Do record yourself to check the timing. Listening to the playback helps you remember your content.


We can’t be objective about our own presentations. Practice in front of a test audience, if possible. A Toastmasters club is ideal since the members know how to give feedback. If that’s not possible, ask for feedback on segments from people whose input you value. 


PS How about recording your presentation and posting it on YouTube? That’s a nice memento for your digital tapestry.

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