Do you find that creating a slideware presentation is a daunting task? Do you tend to regret the time you committed yourself to this task? Do you find yourself tweaking your material at the last minute? These symptoms can be cured with careful preparation. First, regardless of how experienced a speaker you are, give yourself a realistic deadline. Then consider the three distinct stages that will help you make the most of the time available: the planning stage, the execution stage and the review stage.
Step 1: Become a Storyboard user
When: Planning Stage
What: Use a blank sheet of paper divided in squares and a pencil to draft your presentation.
Why: A storyboard allows for an overview of the whole presentation at a glance. It allows the speaker to place text, visuals and data at regular intervals. It provides a clear indication if the presentation concept will work. It indicates how much and what speaker input is required. It guides you to be economical with your media and time. It enables you to make changes faster and more efficiently. At the end of the exercise you will have the blueprint of your presentation.
Step 2: Be creative with templates
When: Planning stage
What: Investigate stock templates that are available through your slideware developer. Search for ways that allow you to change the key features available so they represent you as a speaker and not the publisher. Research what other speakers have done and decide on a list of personal Do’s and Don’ts.
Why: First and foremost, because the presentation content and aesthetics are an integral part of who you are and what you stand for. Secondly, because you definitely want to stand out, you really want to make a difference. Lastly, because you want your message to have an impact and make a lasting impression.
Step 3: Be selective with themes
When: Planning Stage
What: Depending on the occasion, the expected audience and the topic of the presentation, decide on the colours, the composition and the contrast of the elements in your slides.
Why: Colours need to agree with the brand you are representing, be it yourself or a major corporation. Colours have an emotional impact and they need to align with the content of your presentation and the occasion. Colours need to provide validity and enhance the authority and trustworthiness of the speaker.
Step 4: Know your keyboard shortcuts
When: Execution stage
What: Know exactly what keyboard shortcuts work for your slide software and when you may need them. Practice them at a time other than when preparing a presentation. Use the ones that make sense to you and apply them consistently.
Why: They save time since you do not have to remove your fingers from the keyboard. They allow you to set up a routine while performing similar actions on different slides. The also help you reduce the number of keystrokes required to complete the presentation. Fewer keystrokes translates into more time available for revising and editing.
Composition is paramount since the audience will automatically look at the element in the top left-hand corner first and the bottom right-hand corner last. Composition is important because the audience will focus on the larger item on the slide first. Composition is important because too many items will obscure your message and intentions.
Contrast is vital to legibility and clarity. The sharper the contrast between background and fonts will guarantee that the audience does not have to struggle to comprehend what you are showing them. Consider the size of the room, the lighting conditions, even the time of day and the length of your talk. The aim of your slides is to facilitate not to hinder understanding.
Step 5: Toss the script
When: Execution Stage
What: Limit the amount of content (text, images, data) in your slides. Use one slide for each of your points. Use an index to guide your audience. Signal each stage clearly. Remind them at every stage where you are and how many more points are to come. Recap each section involving the audience as you go along.
Why: Use your slides as a mnemonic device, not as a script. Even better, point at the items on the screen, do not read from your slides. Consider the impact of silent movies that relied on body language. Tell a story, do not read a paper. There is a place and time for the latter, but it is definitely not when you are presenting live.
Step 6: Develop an author routine
When: Execution stage
What: Prioritise your tasks, make a list and follow it. This list should be subject to revision, but not on a whim. As a rule of thumb, go through the different tasks and then amend your list once you have completed it. Use it repeatedly, knowing that it is not a straightjacket. It is rather a tool to facilitate and empower you.
Why: During this stage it may be easy to get sidetracked and distracted. Make a list of the points that come to mind while you are developing your material and consider them once you are finished. You will find that not all of them are equally important. Follow this routine consistently from presentation to presentation to save time, while keeping an open mind about changes that may help you become more productive.
Step 7: Organise your material
When: Review stage
What: Collect all materials (media, templates and themes) that you have or have not collected in useful chunks so that they can be accessed later. They will help you in the future by saving time researching or developing materials. They will also help you develop a personal style and approach to form and content.
Why: You never know when you may come across materials that intrigue you. If there is a system in place, then you can store them for future use. Approach this habit with caution: Do not become a digital hoarder. Discard what appears dated or has lost its freshness.
Step 8: Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle
When: All stages
What: Do not start every presentation from scratch. During planning, identify media, templates and themes that may be suitable for the presentation in focus. During execution, consider what effects available in your software might make the content appropriate for the task at hand. During review, identify those items that have received the best response from your audience and earmark them for future use – or delete them if you find them unsuccessful.
Why: Searching for a specific type of media, template or theme the last minute and under pressure may lead to unfortunate compromises. There is a time and place for new material but searching and researching for them need to happen with the right amount of time and thinking to spare. A word of caution: Do not duplicate your work. Repeat attendees may find it frustrating and aggravating.
In conclusion, remember that according to Franz Kafka “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”