How to “do” a presentation #htdap

How to do a presentation is an ordered list. Please follow the steps, in order. I think you’ll find the result both illuminating and rewarding. There are lots of links to other posts that deal with the issues in a wee bit more detail. Have a look, share the ideas. #htdap

First, turn OFF your computer, get some scrap paper and a pen. Or some Post-It notes. Yes, turn off the computer, plan analogue.

I strongly suggest you write out, by hand, the answers to the following.


  1. Consider the audience– who are they? specifically find out and imagine being in their seat in the auditorium when you take the stage. are they experienced, old, male, interested or forced to be there, open to change or established in their practise.  all of this will affect their reception of your piece. why they are in the auditorium? what do they know about the topic? what are their hopes or fears? what challenges does the topic pose? write down the needs of the audience from your topic. don’t say “to pass the exam”, “mandatory training” or research meeting as that doesn’t describe the need. 
  2. With reference to your topic, where are the audience currently and where do you want them to be at the end of the presentation? The aim of your talk is what you want to talk about, the objective is what you want your audience to do with that information. BE SPECIFIC and write down in ONE sentence the change you want to see in your audience using specific action words. Do not simply say “learn more about”, “understand” or variations, write what you want to achieve. this is the objective.
  3. Write an elevator pitch for your whole story that will leave the audience asking, “tell me more?” if they met you on the way somewhere else. This isn’t part of the p1 but gets you thinking of audience engagement.
  4. Brain storm the topic understanding the audience needs, your objective and time available in the presentation. I use a notepad, some people use post it notes but just do a brain dump of everything you can think of. get it all down, the organisation, selection and structure will come later.
  5. Have a break. Seriously, go for a walk, bike ride or something. The gap will really help in your process. Try to group your ideas into three. Three is a magic number. Think of three questions, three challenges, three problems. This structure leads the audience from where they start to your objective.
  6. Now, construct a storyline that details this journey. It should rise and fall; the arc of a story.
  7. Within this story consider mini stories that need resolution (sparklines) and will maintain interest. For longer presentations you will need a spark every seven minutes.
  8. Is there a final denouement or punchline that will be  memorable?
  9. Consider a STAR moment (Something To Always Remember) that the audience can return to and link your message to. This may be physical, an interaction or a challenging statement. Build that into your story.
  10. WRITE out your story, step by step. Don’t use bulletpoints (ever) but clearly expand everything you intend to say.
  11. Edit that story until it is as good as you can make it. That will never be the 1st time. Read out as performance that script, twice. This must be 80% or less of the time allocated to you. Trim it down and do it again.
  12. You didn’t trim it down. Go back and trim it down. Trust me, 80% . Less is more. You’ll just ignore this point but you’re wrong. You will over run. Stripped down you should now be able to visualise your whole p1 instep; one introduction, three main steps, each with 3 substeps, one conclusion.
  13. Now consider which of these steps would benefit from illustration. The p2 supports what has been constructed above. NOT every single one but a summary image for a few of these steps. Maybe even NO image at all, a blank slide (the best slide in the world!)
  14. Now, fire up your presentation software. If you have turned it on before now, go back to the beginning, you are doing this wrong. No, you are.
  15. Once you have decided the illustrations for your talk get rid of half of them. It’s illustrations, not a comic novel.You want to illustrate, not annotate.
  16. You now need to deliver this. You will need a stop watch and ideally an audience. Stand up and deliver this OUT LOUD.
  17. Unless you are 10% UNDER time, start again and remove HALF of what you intend to say.  NEVER think you will either do this on the day or “just go a bit quicker. You won’t. You didn’t believe me at 80%
  18. Return to point 14 and try again. You will also notice bits that just didn’t seem right. Move them, improve them or remove them. The presentation is not complete until you have delivered it at least FIVE times
  19. By now your timing will have improved dramatically and you have a much better idea of the steps in your presentation. Turn off the presentation software and give your presentation, timed. No notes, no slides. THIS is what you want to say. Consider the links between the 3 main parts, could they be improved? how do they link to a possible theme?
  20. I would strongly suggest you now re-do the whole thing. Step 17 has shown you the bits you really want.
  21. Now construct your handout. It is NOT your slides. It is a digital representation of knowledge that you want the audience to have access afterwards. It might include pdfs, images, audio, notes, links to web sites or even a url where all of this may be downloaded later.
  22. That’s construction, delivery is quite another matter.
  23. Share these ideas with folks who ask. Maybe share these ideas with folks who might need a wee bit of help.A quick link to this page is

    Or the QR code




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