Want to deliver a better presentation? You need to throw the net wide

Are you missing this vital step?

So, you have a presentation coming up, where do you start?

A lot of people I know start by opening their laptop and punching out slides. When you start a presentation like this you are trying to capture random thoughts and arrange them in a linear fashion on the fly. The presentation ends up looking like a shopping list of information with no flow, no objective, and no connection. The slides also tend to be text heavy and include too much detail. I also find that when people invest time in making slides, they tend not to cull them, so you end up with a slide deck that just doesn’t work

Here is another alternative that I use with every client that I coach. I call it ‘throwing the net wide.’ 

The goal here is to do a brain dump of everything you know about the topic you are presenting on. Start with a blank piece of paper – the bigger the better, I use flipchart paper and this exercise usually generates four pages of content.

Here is how it works

  • Put your main topic in the middle of the page and ask yourself: 
    • Why am I giving this talk?
    • What am I hoping to achieve with this presentation?
    • What is my objective?

Dig deep, apply the five whys, and get some clarity on what you want people to do, say, think, or feel as a result of this presentation. 

  • Now flip the coin
    • What are the audience’s expectations?
    • What are then non-negotiable needs?
    • What are their wants and desires?
    • What are their expectations?
    • What questions will they have?
    • Are they supporters or critics?

Ensure you address their wants and needs and prepare for any questions they may have. 

  • Start listing all the subtopics you can speak about
    • Throw the net as wide as possible this will help you understand your subject
    • Do not edit at this stage, just dump it all down on paper

I find when people do this they progress quickly from anxiety and confusion through to confidence and pride in how much they know.

  • Grab a red Texta
    • go back to your objective and the audiences wants and needs, and cross off everything that is not relevant to your objective and the audience

This will help you gain clarity in your topic. 

  • Clump
    • Have a good look all the remaining data and decide how it’s going to fit together
    • Is there an interesting piece of information that would make a great 10 second grab?
    • What about the supporting information that you can clump into three main parts for the body of your talk?
    • How will you conclude? What is your call to action at the end of your presentation?

This may sound like a lot of work, but it can be done in as little as 15 minutes. 

Every time I do this with a client, I can see their shoulders drop, they start to smile and get excited about their presentation. This simple step increases confidence, reassures you that yes, you do know this topic and helps you uncover the curly question that may arise.

If you have a presentation coming up in the next couple of months, the best time to start your mind map is now. And if you need it, I’m always here happy to help.

Sharon Ferrier
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