This fall I traveled a lot doing presentations and happily spreading the word about cosmetic science and formulating. The talks have ranged in length from 30 minutes to 6 hours. While I’ve done a couple of the talks before, there were two that I had to come up with completely from scratch in a short amount of time. This lead me to employ the following system which helps immensely to speed up the process of creating a presentation.
Fast and efficient presentation method
If you ever have to create a presentation, here’s a system you can use to do it quickly and effectively. In fact, I was able to follow this to create a 45 minutes presentation in 3 days.
Step 1 - Come up with a topic
Typically, when you are asked to do a talk you will already have a topic in mind. This was the case when I created my presentation about Skepticism and the Cosmetic Chemist. I have an interest in skepticism and thought it would make an interesting presentation for an SCC meeting. However, there are also times when you will be asked to speak on a specific topic. When I was the keynote speaker at the Florida SCC Sunscreen Symposium this year, the organizers asked me specifically to speak about Sunscreen Brands and Building and Online Reputation. The bottom line is that you need to have a broad sense of the topic you want to speak about and have a reason for doing the talk. It could be that you like speaking in front of crowds, you like traveling or you have some business goal you’re trying to achieve.
Step 2 - Create a mind map
My next step in creating the presentation is to create a mind map using software like Freemind or just a blank piece of paper and a pencil. In the middle I place the topic I’m going to write about and then I brainstorm different main topics. Then I fill in more topics after that until I get all the ideas for the presentation laid out on a single mind map. Don’t worry about editing yourself at this point. Just put down every idea you can think of for the topic. Click the image below for the mind map I use in creating my recent talk at the Florida Sunscreen Symposium.
3. Make a handout version of the slides you’ll use
Now that you have all your ideas down, the next step is to create an outline version of your talk that will be suitable for handing out. This is easily done using the basic Powerpoint (or other presentation software) theme and your mind map. For each major topic you create a slide. Then populate the slides with the information in your mind map. These slides will not be the ones that you use during your presentation. Rather, they will be the ones that you send to the talk organizers as handouts for people to follow while you talk. The reason is that these slides will be a more useful version for which to take notes. Your presentation slides will mostly be pictures that won’t be too helpful except during the talk.
4. Write your talk
At this point you should have an outline for your presentation that you created when you made your slide handout version of the talk. Next you need to turn that outline into a written presentation. Just sit down and write what you want to say. Follow the general rule that 100 words = 1 minute of talking. So, if you are scheduled to make a 30 minute presentation, you will have to write 3000 words for your talk. Depending on how well I know the topic and what I’m going to say, I can write about 500 - 1000 words an hour.
5. Create graphical slides from your talk
Once the presentation is written, you’ll have to create the presentation slides. These slides are much different than your outline slides. Instead of being filled with words, they should be filled with images that help support the points your are making. You can include some words but they shouldn’t take long for your audience to read. The idea is that you don’t want your audience paying attention to your slides, you want them to pay attention to you. Take a look at the slides I created for my sunscreen symposium presentation. It takes some practice to create minimalist slides that are interesting and relevant. The way I do it is to find some keyword or quote about the point I’m trying to make. Using Google Image search is incredibly useful when putting these together.
6. Practice presentation once through
You don’t have to memorize the presentation that you’ve written but you should read through it a few times to insure that you know what you want to say. While you are reading, go through your presentation slides so the image immediately reminds you of the key points you are going to make during the presentation. I find that if I’ve written the presentation and created the slides, my brain naturally remembers the talk and can present without additional prompts. But if you need additional help, you can create notecards from your hand-out presentation slides.
7. Be prepared for problems
The final step is to prepare for problems. When you are giving a presentation don’t assume that there will be a computer and projector for you to use. Double check with the organizer to make sure that there is one. Also, bring your own computer and have a copy of your presentation on a thumb drive so it can easily be transferred to any other computer that is available. And if you are unable to show your slides you should be able to give your presentation anyway. Remember the whole point of making slides as I’ve described above is that you want the attention to remain focused on you, not on your slides. Yes, it might not be as good but you really shouldn’t need the slides to do your talk.
For more detailed information on creating the content of your talk & some presentation tips, I’d suggest you review these excellent posts that Kelly did about creating the best presentation that you can and how to prepare yourself for your talk.