Creating your visual aids

Never present the written document- Save, edit, reduce then present the least that you can

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In the second episode of – ‘things we do in work that seem ridiculous but we all do it anyway…’ Here’s the solution to that recurrent problem.

Your boss wants a report that can also be used as a presentation or a presentation that can also be used as a report.

So what do we do typically?  We want to do what our boss wants us to do, so we choose PowerPoint and start typing.  Then we try to present that report designed to be read to our audience and it’s a very hard thing to do.  It’s supervised reading at the very best, and even the best presenters struggle to use one, usually PowerPoint,  document for both jobs.  So here’s the simplest way of doing the unthinkable.  Using the written document as the basis for the presentation.  So once you’ve got your completed PowerPoint report-

Step by step

Open the master file and save it as- masterfilename-slide. You can keep the written word and save your slides for presenting with as a separate file, based on the first.  Use the whole file as a ‘storyboard’ and use the ‘storyboard’ view in PowerPoint to help you identify the story that you want to tell- in support of the written document.

Your goal is to give a short, focused overview of what the document will tell them when they read it.  It’s not your job to read the document to them in its entirety. So you might introduce the presentation with some words like- ‘I’ll give you a high-level summary of the report, and leave you to read the detail at your convenience…’  So to prepare this ‘high-level summary-

Step by step- start with the whole document in storyboard view

  1. Choose the key slides to help you lay out your ‘Act 1’, ‘Act 2’ and ‘Act 3’ story structure and delete any slides that add nothing to the spare, concise story that you want to tell.
  2. Having deleted the fat, now you can go to work on the visual, verbal and intellectual  ‘clutter‘ in the remaining slides.

    Step 1. Choose Key Slides to help you lay out your story

  3. Look at each slide, in turn, and delete all of the unnecessary words and lines (Leave only nouns and verbs, use the BBC news graphics as your guide)
  4. Think about turning bullet point lists into ‘Smart Art’ graphics to add a little visual interest to the slides,
  5. Then makes sure that there’s a clear point to be made by each slide,
  6. Split confusing or mixed messages over 2 slides- or even better, just delete them if they add little to the overall message,
  7. When you’ve done this, practice talking through the whole piece using the sparse words and images to help you emphasise the key parts of the story,

    Steps 5-8. Remove, clutter, change bullet lists to visuals

  8. Then add an attention grabbing start and  clear summary/tell them what they have to do ending,
  9. And you’re off.
The whole process should take no more than an hour, and that hour will give you a great chance to make a strong impression on your audience, including your boss, and make the most of what would otherwise have been a ‘suicide mission’.  With your reputation as the victim.

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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  1. Pingback: presenting for geeks

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