Powerful Presentations Tip #3: The Best Content Begins with B.S.

Admit it. You’re a bit nervous about what this tip might hold. The best content begins with B.S.? Of course, it’s not the B.S. you’re thinking of … nor is it the B.S. most people turn to as they start their presentation design: Bullet Slides.

The best content begins with a blank slate. Once you’ve clarified learning outcomes (tip#1) and context (tip #2), you’re ready to brainstorm possible content. A blank slate approach lets you get your complete thinking out more easily. After doing so you then go back and refine your initial thoughts. Software programs like Keynote and PowerPoint can unnecessarily constrain your thinking at this stage, so I strongly encourage you to avoid using them yet.

What do I mean by blank slating? In general, I’m talking about freeform identification of the content points, stories, examples, quotes, etc. supporting the presentation outcomes. In doing this for my own sessions, I generally mindmap the content around my key outcomes or content points, or I individually write down every thought or idea I have on slips of scrap paper. It’s a glorified brain dump, getting out on paper (or screen) all my ideas about what could be included in the presentation.

After doing this, I organize and label common themes, essentially creating a rough outline/flowchart of the core concepts and supporting stories, examples, and details for each one. I then review my work to see what’s not necessary, what might be missing, what needs to be fleshed out more. I specifically look for ways to streamline my key points and to make them more succinct and memorable. I want to identify the most compelling hooks that will engage people’s attention in the session and that will have the longest staying power after the presentation. Finally, I do some initial prioritization of each supporting content piece (essential, desirable, additional).

Being more of a right-brain thinker, this usually is sufficient for me to move on to the next stage of presentation design. If you are more left-brain, you might want to move this information into a text outline.

To summarize this part of the process: think freely and edit faithfully while avoiding slide design software for this step of the design process.