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Storylines – The Starting Point

Do you develop presentations by building a message from a storyline or by a process of elimination? Both methods are capable of producing a great presentation. Storylines are a blueprint of a message to be developed. A process of elimination starts with developing or pulling from past work ideas and information that are placed in a presentation, rearranged, and whittled down into a storyline.

If time is a critical concern, start with a storyline … and there are other benefits from beginning with a storyline.

Developing a storyline

Each presentation should be developed so that it speaks to a specific audience and works within the timeframe allowed.

Know your audience

What is the audience expecting to learn? What are their experiences with your subject material? These are all important questions to ask yourself – and perhaps research – before beginning to develop your presentation.

Know the context of your presentation

Why is the audience assembled? What else is being presented? If you are among many presenters, try to understand where in the schedule your presentation will occur. Try to learn or anticipate what the other presentations will cover. This will provide a "game plan" for your message development.

Know how much time you have

A critical task is to identify and prioritize the messages you want the audience to hear and retain from your presentation. How much time you have to present bears heavily on these decisions. Choose messages that can be fully explained, supported, and reinforced within the time allowed. Striking a balance between too much and too little will be a determining factor of whether your presentation is a success.

Developing your message

Once you have identified the goals for your presentation, selecting and developing the material should be easier. Because you understand how deeply you should dive into the subject(s), the amount of presentation development time will be reduced; and you can focus your (team's) efforts more effectively.

You're ready to develop your storyline. You need to decide how to spend the time you have in front of the audience. The next set of questions to ask yourself includes:

  • Do I need to establish my credibility or will that be accomplished by others? Will I be introduced as an expert? Will my very presence at the event establish my authority?
  • Do I need to spend time explaining the current state of the industry/market/economics/etc.? Is this being done by others or is it inherently known by the participants? How much time do I need to spend convincing the audience I know about and understand the issues at hand?
  • Is it appropriate to weave a "commercial" aspect into the presentation? Am I there to promote products and services or simply provide information?

There are other questions that you can factor into your decision making as you begin to develop your message. The point is to be clear on what, specifically, you are bringing to your audience and how you wish it to be received.

* * *

At this point you should be able to develop a solid outline for your presentation, and then the process of developing each point can begin. Whether you write new slides or leverage slides from previous presentations, be sure that their content supports the message you have decided is appropriate for the event and their tones harmonize.