5 Steps to Planning an Effective Presentation


July 23, 2008   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

 Written on 7/23/2008 by Aaron Stannard, editor of Working Smarter.

You can find plenty of information on presentation blogs about how to design effective slides and how to deliver an effective presentation, but one aspect that often gets overlooked is the work that goes into preparing the substance of a presentation.

You can be the most charismatic presenter in the world with well-designed slides, but if you try to present information in an incomprehensible sequence then you’re just as ineffective as the guy who does nothing but read bullet points out loud.

That being said it’s important to prepare your presentation and get organized before you begin worrying about your slides, your delivery, and all of those other details. Here are 5 steps you can take towards preparing an effective presentation:

    1. Outline Your Objectives
      What do you want the end result of your presentation to be? Do you want to convince people to buy something? Do you want to instruct them? The objective of your presentation will determine most of your substance; the simple act of writing down your objectives will make it that much easier to organize what you’re going to say and when you’re going to say it.


  • Gauge Your Audience’s Expertise
    The next step is to determine how much your audience already understands about the subject you’re going to present. If you’re asked to give a lecture about gravity to elementary school students then you’re not going to treat all of them like tenured physics professors.


Try to gauge the level of expertise and design your presentation to build upon what they already know. If you’re not sure how much experience the audience has had with a given subject, try to meet them somewhere in the middle.


  • Make an Outline
    The next step is to make an outline of all of the concepts that you’re going to cover in your present. I like to use a mind map to organize my thoughts into a rough outline, since I think that they’re a better tool for fleshing out ideas than traditional bulleted lists are. Regardless of what tool you use, build an outline of the topics you want to cover during the course of your presentation.



  • Sequence Your Presentation
    Once you have an outline of all of the topics that you want to cover in your presentation then you need to determine the sequence of your presentation. A good way to do that is to use a simple flowchart which lays out the order of the ideas that you’re going to present. Some people, usually hardcore PowerPoint users, prefer to use real storyboards where they produce mock-ups of each stage of the presentation.


Personally, I think using a real storyboard can be pretty time-consuming so I prefer to stick with a basic flowchart when I’m sequencing a presentation.


  • Determine What Visuals You Will Need
    The final step to preparing a presentation is to figure out what sort of visual aids you’re going to need. You probably won’t need a complicated visual for every single point of your presentation, but when it comes down to explaining something complicated, like how a business process works, then you’re going to want to support yourself with a good visual.


Figure out which concepts are going to require a visual – typically it’s the most complicated or important concepts which really need it. Go ahead and make a list of what sort of visuals you’re going to need.

And that’s it – it’s really not too tough to plan a great presentation, especially if you start using these five steps more frequently. I’ve already prepared two different presentations this week using these steps and they really do work for me; feel free to ask me about my three-page-long flowchart storyboard :p

Feel free to leave some comments below with any questions you may have about planning presentations; I’ll be checking them!



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