A Better Way to Plan Your Presentation

The way most people put together presentations these days is to go to an old slide deck and find slides that, with a little tweaking, can be reused.  Then, they create any new slides that might be needed.

Finally, all these slides get moved around until they’re in the order that the speaker wishes to present them. This is the tactical approach to presentation planning. I don’t recommend it.

Use a strategic approach to presentation planning. You’ll get better results.

An effective presentation strategy starts with a clear view of who your audience is and what you want to accomplish with them.

Then, you should clarify your core message and fill in the needed details.  Lastly, add slides, stories, demos (if appropriate), or any other information that helps you explain your logic.

Here are some things to think about at each of the three stages in the strategic presentation planning process.

Consider who will be in your audience and what’s important to them.

  • What “keeps them up at night?”
  • What is the issue they need to solve or be informed about?
  • What is their attitude toward the topic? Positive, negative, or neutral?  Is the audience split?
  • What is their level of knowledge on the topic?  Do you need to define acronyms or technical terminology?

Define what you want your core message to be.

  • Net out what is sometimes called the “elevator pitch” or “executive summary”.
  • Begin your presentation with this core message.
  • Use the Mandel Blueprint® to build and present your core message.
    • Include a statement of the problem from the audience’s point of view to set the context.
    • Offer your opinion on what needs to be done.
    • Make your “ask” of the audience.
    • This should all happen in the first 90 seconds of your presentation.

Group presentation details around your main ideas or headings.

  • Make your main ideas the content of your agenda slide.
  • Limit the number of main ideas to three.  It’s easier for the human brain to process and retain facts or information in groups of three.  If you must include more, don’t exceed five main ideas.
  • Keep the detail you provide to “must know” information.
  • Put “nice to know” information in your handout package, appendices, or on backup slides.

Learn more about Mandel’s Methodology, and the Mandel Blueprint®.

Picture of Steve Mandel

Steve Mandel

Steve founded Mandel Communications in 1983. He is a renowned presentation skills trainer and coach and the author of the highly successful book Effective Presentation Skills. In addition to serving as a key Mandel company executive, Steve thrives on working directly with clients in one-on-one coaching and group workshop settings. He has a deep understanding of the communication challenges faced by professionals and executives in high-stakes settings and works with clients to pinpoint and address mission-critical communication needs. Steve's business success and his avocation as an accomplished amateur astrophotographer have earned him special recognition in Forbes magazine.
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