Creating Visual Presentations – Approaching PowerPoint Correctly (Webinar Preview)

This is a clip from our Business Watch Network webinar, “Creating Visual Presentations” featuring Nolan Haims. To register for the webinar, visit


But let’s first talk about this first phase of presentation creation. The first phase that I usually see is people doing things like this. They take a bunch of slides or content, throw it on slides. They start creating their Frank index, Like, “Oh, Jim used that triangle graphic last month and that was good. I’m going to throw that in there. No, I want to get these bullet points in. And oh, here’s an image.” And then even before they start thinking about what this slide is about, they start designing. They start moving, “Oh, well, I’ve got to have them all be the same color. I got to get my logo in there. Oh, well let me format the bullet points.” Stop. Okay. Stop. Don’t just start designing before you understand what it is you are saying on a presentation, on an overall presentation level and on a slide by slide level. You’ve got to outline your presentation no matter how casual you think it is, no matter how many times you’ve given this presentation before.

There are lots of ways to outline a presentation. This is one of my favorites. This is the one that I bring my clients through when they’re having trouble with their story. It’s very simple. You have a copy of this, but anybody can make it. It’s just a three column table in which each row represents a slide. Okay. Each row represents one message that you want to give. The first column is actually I think the most important, it’s how much time you want to spend on that one message. Now, if you’re given 20 minutes for a presentation, you start filling this out. And what happens every single time I have a client do this is they fill it out, they look at it and they’re like, “Oh, I have 40 minutes of content.” Now is the time to start cutting. Now is the time to start realizing, “Ah, they don’t need eight minutes of the background in my company. Nobody cares. Let’s just get to the point.”

Now is the time to start cutting before you start creating slides and wasting time. The middle section is what you want to say on that slide. And this doesn’t have to be so formal right now. Ultimately, that middle column often becomes the speaker notes, the talk track. But the third column is the visual that might be on the screen. Now, again, at this phase, you may not know. You may know what you want to say. You may not know how to visualize it. That’s fine. We’ll get to that into the design phase. Or you might know instantly, “Yes, I need to show this headline. I need to show this chart to make this point.” So put it in here now. This is where you get buy-in, this is where you start looking at your time. This is where you start moving into a slide by slide outline, which is crucial. Now this is just one way to do it.

I worked with a lot of nonprofit foundations and nonprofit organizations and the leaders in those places, they tend to be real writers. So very often with them, they’ll write out their whole presentation sort of verbatim, even though they know they’re not going to give it verbatim. That’s the way they think. So sometimes we’ll take this and start outlining and start literally highlighting, saying, “This could be a visual. This could be a visual.” And we can visually see, “Oh, it’s been a whole page with only one slide and we’ve got to get more in there.” Especially in these days of remote presenting. We want to use more slides rather than fewer to keep things moving. So that’s one way to do it. If you insist on working in PowerPoint, please just keep the design for later. Just do things in black and white. Don’t worry about the design. Don’t even worry about the template. You can use Outline mode, if anybody’s interested in that. That’s a feature of PowerPoint we can show later. Some people really like it. I don’t use it.

But get your headers down, we’re going to talk about that. Just don’t start designing. That is my plea to you. Whether you want to outline with yellow sticky notes on a wall, or if you want to use a whiteboard, however you want to do it. There are lots of ways. I even use Excel sometimes to outline things. I kind of like moving things around for that. However you do it, please just wait on the design phase. Okay. Enough of that. I know I sound like your high school English teacher. “Outline your term paper before you start writing.” But it’s going to help. All right. So that’s how we approach it, PowerPoint, before we start getting our hands dirty in the software.

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