The Foundation For All Great Presentations – Plan On Paper First

Carmine Gallo posted the best PowerPoint tip you’ll ever get on the Forbes.com blog today. And, in truth, this advice is so simple and so profound, it will forever change the way you build presentations – if only you’ll follow it.

The advice: plan your deck on paper first.

This simple – even humble – piece of advice really is the foundation for all great presentations. I’ve even developed the Mindworks Method planning grid to help business managers plan better decks.

This advice will result in better decks for a number of reasons.

1. Uncover your story. I’ve written extensively on this blog about the power of storytelling. But an unorganized heap of graphs and schematic diagrams is not a story. When you plan on paper, using a storyboard, you figure out your broad strokes first: what is my message, what are the 3-4 key points I want to hit, what point will I hit first, second. Only after you know these things are you ready to start building slides.

2. Saves you time. You’ll eliminate all that time you waste building slides, playing with different images, playing with fonts and colors, only to realize you don’t really need this slide. Sometimes that slide is simply deleted. Sometime, you can’t bear to delete it – you spent so much time on it! So it goes into the appendix.

3. Avoids the PowerPoint defaults. Whenever someone blames PowerPoint for their use of bullet points, I always ask “you did plan on paper first, right?” If you plan on paper, you aren’t channeled toward bullet points but begin by thinking about the major points you want to hit on each slide, which often leads to thinking more visually.

4. Great collaboration tool. It’s easier to get together in a room with other folks and plan a presentation when you whiteboard it first – what is the main point we want to hit, what are the main support points, etc (like point #1 above). This avoids the common “Franken-deck” approach, where you say “Karl, you take the first 3 slides on the market size. Karen, you take a couple of slides on the partner channel. I’ll add the product slides.”

5. You’ll end up with better decks faster. I use notepaper to plan PowerPoint decks, which have several advantages. They are about the dimensions of a PowerPoint slide. You are forced to write one simple idea on each slide and not depend on 8-point font to make your point. You can quickly – in about 30-60 minutes – draft a 30-slide deck. You can lay your notepaper out and see how the story flows. You can rearrange slides to improve the story flow. You can see where your story is falling apart and improve it. You can throw slides away before you make the mistake of building them.

This one change is the foundation for better presentations. Don’t underestimate just how important and profound is this advice. It may make the difference between a good and a great presentation the next time you open PowerPoint.

But only if you actually do it.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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