How to Build a Presentation

by Danielle Dalton Last Updated: 2018.06.18 How to build a presentation

All your information to present is saved on your computer. You just downloaded a presentation template that fits your message perfectly (for help choosing a template, check out How to Choose a Presentation Template). Now you just start typing in all your information, right?

We know you’re excited to begin using your template to create a presentation sure to wow your audience, but first we suggest writing an outline of the presentation.

If outlines remind you of a tedious English class assignment from your past, we wholeheartedly feel your pain and sympathize—but these outlines are different. Unlike your English class outlines, you won’t be outlining a five paragraph essay on a book you read (okay, skimmed….okay, read the summary on Google five minute before class). You’re outlining your presentation on a topic you know a lot about, so it’s a lot easier.

You’re an Expert

Your business card may read Vice President, Department Manager, or something in between, but you’re also an expert (feel free to tell the Human Resources Department to add that to your next order of business cards). You’re an expert on your presentation topic. We know that presentations can be intimidating. Remember, though, that you know the topic better than anyone else in the audience—even if it doesn’t always feel that way. So, rather than be intimidated, be empowered.
You’re smart and this presentation is a chance to show others just how much you do know and share your suggestions with them.

Find Your Story

Go ahead and take out all the information you want to share in your presentation. There’s probably a mix of some really important information and some minute details—that’s good, don’t worry.

Have you ever seen an inspiring TED talk or seen a clip of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone? People love these presentations and each one has millions of views on YouTube. Why? Because they tell a story.

People like stories. They’re easy to follow and interesting. To create a truly effective presentation, you should find the story in your information.

You may be thinking, “Find my story? I’m presenting on my company’s budget for next year; there’s no story here.” Whether you’re presenting financial projections, a business plan, or something in between, there’s always a story.

The story isn’t the kind of embarrassing story about your childhood your family shares with your friends at dinner or the kind of epic saga about that trip to Las Vegas with the boys. No, this story follows three simple points:

  • Where are we now
  • Where we want to end up
  • How we’re going to get there

Answer these simple points and you’ve suddenly got a story to share with the audience and also the first step of your outline.

The Outline

Every presentation has a beginning, middle, and end. Each part builds upon the information presented before it. You can’t explain a solution to a problem if your audience doesn’t know that the problem exists.

The story helps mag out the beginning, middle, and end. On a piece of paper, jot down the things you want to share with your audience. Remember that they won’t remember everything you say, so try to stick to important points that they will recall later.

Outline what you want to share in the order you want the presentation to follow. After you’ve written an overview of the presentation, then go back and reread it two times.

The first time you reread the outline, see if you’ve left out any important details you wanted to include. The second time, imagine that you’re in the audience listening to your presentation for the first time. Would the presentation make sense to a member of the audience? If it wouldn’t go back and figure out where you can explain things further, so that the audience will understand.

Once your outline does make sense, then look at it and decide what information you want to put on your slides. Before you begin to think, “Well this is all important, so I’m going to put all of it on the slides,” think about presentations you’ve heard in the past. Remember the one where the presenter read every word on the slide verbatim and it was incredibly boring? Yes. Don’t be that presenter (If you’ve never experienced a presentation where someone simply read off the slides, two things. One, we are incredibly jealous you somehow managed to avoid this in life. Two, take our word that is incredibly boring and try not to do it in your own presentation).

You can say all your important information, but only put a fraction of it on the slides. How do you decide what to say and what to put on the slides? As a rule, graphs or visuals are good things to put on the slides, while things you can easily say are better left off the slides.

Once you have an outline mapping out what you want to put on your slides, you can then begin building your presentation on your computer using your presentation template. Outlining will save you from making unnecessary slides that you later have to delete and allow you to make a presentation that flows nicely the first time around.