For a lot of people, one of the most difficult aspects of creating a presentation is finding the right flow with your content. And to make matters worse, it’s one of the very first things you must tackle in the process before moving on. There’s nothing like staring at a huge stack of information, or at a deck made up of 75 unorganized slides, to make your heart drop right into your stomach. Alas, here are three steps to steer you in the right direction.
Step One: Hunt & Gather
First things first: gather every single, itty-bitty piece of information you want to include in your presentation together in one place. Maybe that means pulling slides from past presentations you’ve done into a new PowerPoint file, maybe that means copy and pasting all that information into one Word doc, or maybe that means sifting through pages of documents and setting aside what’s necessary. Regardless, get all your information together in one place. If you’re missing information that you know you’ll eventually need to include, make a note of those incongruities.
Moreover, this is the time to soak up as much inspiration as possible. Evernote and Readability are both great apps to help keep track of what inspires you. Make sure you tag every post so you can easily refer back to it. And scour your RSS feed with Reader, Feedly or Mr. Reader to find quotes, case studies, statistics and other information that will benefit your presentation.
Step Two: Divide & Conquer
Next, grab a pen and paper. That’s right, actual pen and paper, like in the old days. It’s time to get your hands dirty. Remember, we always want to organize our content into three separate and distinct sections (if possible), so divide that paper into three sections. Start going through your stack of information, one piece after another, and place it into an appropriate section. At this point, it’s completely fine– in fact, it’s encouraged– for those sections to be unnamed; you just want to group similar information together.
Ask yourself: What works together? What doesn’t? What can be thrown out altogether? An efficient way to mark the importance of each piece of information is by color-coding it red, yellow or green. Then, if you have too much going on, start by eliminating the stuff colored red, then move onto yellow if you must, and so on and so forth.
Lastly, work to get your three piles down to a similar size; you don’t want one pile with three pieces of information and another pile with thirty. Do your best to keep them uniform. Once this step is complete, you should have three piles, or three lists, of comparable information.
Step Three: Identify & Classify
You’re doing great; keep it up! Now it’s time to go through your three piles or lists one by one, and name them. For example, perhaps your first pile deals mostly with the history of your company and its accomplishments. Ok, let’s label that “Objective 1: Our History.” Perhaps your second list is a conglomeration of financials and data-heavy reports. Perfect, let’s call that “Objective 2: Our Financials.” And so on.
Now that you’ve labeled each section, and you have a very intimate idea of everything that will be in the presentation, let’s think big picture for a minute. What is the ultimate message you want your audience to take away from this presentation? What’s the main purpose of this presentation? The answers to these questions are a great guide to determining your presentation’s story or introduction, as well as a possible overall theme for your presentation. For example, if your company’s accolades and awards are most important, open your presentation with a few slides detailing them. Or if your company’s mission statement is most compelling, let that introduce the presentation. Moreover, if you see a common thread throughout the presentation, such as “Forward,” “Inspired,” or “Momentum,” use that to connect each section to one another.
Ultimately, it’s essential that the flow of your presentation be connected from beginning to end. Finding an appropriate theme that ties all the objectives together is the best way to find balance and harmony within your presentation’s content. And, remember that it’s always best for a presentation to come full circle: end where you began.