Article Category: Visual Aids

Stop, Prepare, THEN PowerPoint


When you hear the term “presentation design”, what do you think of?

PowerPoint? Or perhaps Keynote if you’re a Mac fan, right?

When you take the first step in designing your presentation, how do you start?  I believe most people sit down in front of their computers and open their favorite slide software (slideware).  Sounds good, right?  Wrong.

Slide software was designed in a way that inexperienced users can open the program and follow a few template prompts to create their presentation.

Title here… bullet points there… graphs on the side.

In order to create unique presentations in a narrative format, the process of designing your presentation must happen before you open PowerPoint.

However, slideware can be a vice on one’s creativity, and few are able to break its grip.  Thus, presentations are created in analog form along the guidelines that templates dictate, resulting in nearly all presentations looking exactly the same.

In order to create unique presentations in a narrative format, the process of designing your presentation must happen before you open PowerPoint.

4 Ways to Prepare Before You Open PowerPoint

With that in mind, here are 4 ways to prepare your presentation before you open PowerPoint:

1. Get off the Grid

Leave your desk.  Leave your entire office.  Leave your house.

These places are filled with distractions — ringing phones, curious co-workers, and constant emails.  They make it incredibly hard to concentrate on the task at hand.  When I start my design process, I head to my local coffee shop, grab a hot chocolate (I actually don’t like coffee), and begin thinking of how I can tell my story.

2. Use a Printed Storyboard

Just like in kindergarten, grab a pencil and paper and start sketching your slide ideas.  You can create a simple grid by printing out 9 blank slides on a piece of paper.  Don’t worry about your drawing skills -– you’re not being graded on this.  You can even start sketching out your story by simply writing the different themes in the slide boxes, and creating the designs later.

3. Grab a Wall and a Stack of Post-It Notes

One of my favorite non-linear design techniques is to simply grab a stack of Post-It notes and start sketching my slide designs.  Place them on a wall (or with the correct-size notes, on your printed storyboard) and start placing them in the best order.  Now you can easily move them around and create the order and flow that best suits your story.

4. Mind-Mapping

Mind-mapping is a great way to organize your presentation prior to beginning your design.  Place the main idea of your presentation (as succinctly as possible) in the center of the page.  If you can reduce that to just one word, even better.  Now start making branches off of your main idea to the different supporting ideas.  It’s a great way to create the framework of your presentation without the limiting, linear aspects of slideware.  There are plenty of software programs out there to help you with this, but a simple pencil and paper will do just fine.

Are you Designing, or Are you Clicking?

Viewing presentation design as simply clicking through commands in PowerPoint is a mistake.

Creating an effectively designed presentation isn’t a clearly defined process.  There is no manual, just as there is no manual on how to paint like a particular artist.  Presentation design is its own art form, and like any art, the artist needs inspiration, clarity, and focus to create their design.

Viewing presentation design as simply clicking through commands in PowerPoint is a mistake.  It’s simply a tool – a vehicle for your ideas, your message, and your passion.  So break the confines of your slideware, free your mind, and let your vision take shape.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
Subscribe to Six Minutes for free to receive future articles.