When building a presentation, I work backwards from the ultimate outcome. Sometimes working backwards helps you see blind spots or inconsistencies in your storyline. You can also use mind-mapping or any other brainstorming technique. Mindmeister is a good mind-mapping tool with the outcome in the middle.
Start by building a basic storyline
Initially, don’t get too detailed. Write down high-level thoughts. You’ll get more detailed as you build the presentation. For now, we are developing the storyline.
1. What outcome are you trying to accomplish?
a. Increased operating efficiency by 4%
b. Financial projections, ROI, the results, etc.
2. What happens if the decision is made or action is taken?
a. It will take X days to put in place, Y weeks to see changes in data, Z people to form the team
3. The “Ask” What specific action or decision does the audience need to take/make to accomplish your outcome?
a. Change software supplier, add sensors, and invest $250K
4. What would happen if the audience does nothing?
a. Without change, costs will continue to increase year over year by X percent. This results in $Y. Field / Line employee moral will decrease. Turnover rates will remain steady at 10%. We project losing 3-5 customers.
5. Why is the information you are presenting important?
a. Employee moral is low. Our field and line employees are having difficulty maintaining quality control. Our NPS has declined by X%.
6. What do we need to know?
a. We are spending $X / year in over-time, warranty claims, and reworks of products
7. What is the problem statement?
a. Our line and field operations are inefficient
Again, don’t spend a ton of time trying to answer in detail. Just quickly brainstorm or map-out out the answers. Write whatever comes into your head. Also, I’m not saying your presentation will have 7 slides. The content and number of slides will depend on your situation.
Start adding content and data to support the storyline
Don’t worry about formatting or the number of slides yet. Concentrate on building out the storyline and filling in the details.
A. Personal Story: Where can you tell personal stories to connect with the audience? This could be a story from the field or an interview with a customer? Maybe it’s the crazy duct tape workaround you saw that helped a machine function. For this example, # 4 would be a good spot for a personal story.
B. Principal Data: What is the single most important piece of compelling evidence? The straw the will break the camels back? That data needs to go right before the “Ask.”
C. Supporting Data: What are the pieces of data for each of the questions? Interlace those throughout the presentation.
D. Simplicity: Find and use only the most relevant principal and supporting data. Don’t overload the pages to show how much work went into the analysis. Use only data that directly supports that point you are trying to make. Try as hard as possible to use ONE slide to make ONE point with ONE compelling piece of data (evidence).
E. Balance: When there's heavy quantitative data, can you balance that out with a personal story? Maybe a picture, meme, or any other lighter, but appropriate content?
Move to a white board or grab a few sheets of paper
Start sketching out slides using the questions / answers from above. Build a storyboard of draft slides. Don’t add the full details. Instead, list the content you’d like to put in each slide. Take a step back. Determine if the storyline still works. Does it flow? Does it provide you with opportunities to pause and connect with the audience? Can you picture yourself balancing the presentation in certain spots? It will take you a few drafts to develop a good storyboard.
Ask a colleague, friend, or family member to review your storyboard with you
Get a second opinion. Maybe even a third. Ask for feedback. Walk through the high-level story. Show this person where you plan to connect with the audience through a personal story. Provide your thoughts on how you’ll balance out the heavy quantitative data. Refine your storyboard if needed.
Start building your outcome-based presentation
Now you have the storyline. You have a storyboard. It's time to start building your presentation. Don’t be surprised if something changes as you start formatting the slides. You might need to move data around, break one slide into two, or combine two slides into one. Remember to take breaks, step back, and refer to your storyline. It's your compass.
You are now on your way to building a great presentation. Go knock it out of the park. Also, let me know how it goes!
If you want a few more ideas, read my article “10 Simple Steps to Rock Your Next Business Presentation.”
I hope this post helped. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to your feedback.