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The Outline

Lesson 6 from: How to Create and Deliver an Impactful Presentation

Matt Stevenson

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Lesson Info

6. The Outline

Next Lesson: The Deck

Lesson Info

The Outline

Let's take a look at some of the tricks that we can do to keep our production of our deck center presentations, make them really efficient and make them work in all kinds of decks whether it's green or yellow or red. So to begin, when we talk about production, what we mean is we're taking all of the things that we've gathered and even though the line might not be clear, we've started to move from our gathering and our preparing to our actual producing of content. This is things like written words and design and images. We've taken all of that and now we're starting to build the thing that we're going to use in our actual presentation. We can divide the things that we're producing into three distinct categories. The first one is our outline. So this is our starting point. It's the thing that's usually created first, and then that's going to turn into both our deck and our notes. And I wanna stop here and make a point about this. When we work with red presentations, red level presentatio...

ns, very often our outline is going to transform into both of our deck and our notes, meaning that the thing that we use to create the outline, whatever software we use is going to then evolve into that deck and that's very important to note because it makes things a lot easier when it comes to transitioning from preparation to production. Let's take a look at that outline. Now there's two ways that outlines can come to us. Either we're gonna be starting them from scratch. We're gonna be creating them ourselves from our content that we've prepared. Or they're gonna be coming to us from another source. Sometimes I'll get decks from clients, and I'll be asked to turn them into something better than what they are. I will then treat that deck that they provide to me as my outline and I'll build on there. So it's important to distinguish whether you're gonna be starting from scratch or whether you're gonna be getting your outline pre-prepared from someone else, or whether you're gonna use a different kind of document, and it's gonna turn into that outline. Let's go ahead and look at an outline that I created. This is just an example outline for a deck. Now this was done in PowerPoint. I'm trying to be software agnostic, because I don't want to dictate very directly about what software you can use. You should use whatever you're most comfortable with. Very often a program will have an outline mode where you'll be able to view everything all at once just like this in terms of thumbnails. PowerPoint is very efficient in that way, because what we can do is just simply create slide after slide after slide, and if you know that you want to talk about something, or if there's a piece of your story that you want to add, then this is how you're gonna do it. You're just gonna basically create a new page, and then write the topic in there that you're gonna talk about, and then that's part of your outline. Now it doesn't have to be done in the slide program. Often times an outline can be done in a word processing program or a note taking program. That's okay, too, but eventually you're gonna wanna move that outline from that word processing, that note program into a deck design program, if you're gonna be using a deck in your presentation, and that's because we wanna make sure that our deck syncs up with what we talk about, and we wanna make sure that we get the rhythm right, too, and we'll talk about rhythm in just a second. So, we have our deck here. We've basically outlined everything that we're gonna talk about. We've even included a title and a thank you slide, which are very important. We'll talk about that in the presenting section. But I wanna go ahead and give you some tips on how to take an outline that you're creating, so you're the source of this outline, and to make it better so that we can produce some really great decks from this. So the first thing that you're gonna wanna do in a deck is start this skeleton and then right after that, you're gonna divide and then divide again. So this double dividing does something very important. It actually sets the stage for when we present for some natural pauses or some question points. It breaks up the content because as an audience, we can only absorb so much without breaks. I mean, that's why we even take breaks here, because we need to be able to pause, and to think about the things that they've just learned. So, the first thing we're gonna do is we're gonna divide. Here you can see I've divided this deck into three sections. So we have the first sections here, which is basically an extended version of an intro. I knew with this presentation that I was working with here that I would do, you know, the title, which is just the slide that I'm going to be sitting on, and then two intro slides. Here I made a note that it's gonna fade to the next one. We'll get into how to split slides in a little bit, and how that can work. But in addition to those two intro slides, I also have a quote and an outline. Now that outline is gonna come into play when we talk about the presenting phase of your presentation. The actual being in front of your audience, because you're gonna wanna review that outline. There's a very specific principle that I'm gonna talk to you about with that. So, I've included my outline slide there, and then this second section this is the meat of my content. This is really where a lot of the talk is going to be about. I didn't, I wanted to break it out from the other ones, because this is basically my start, my meat, and then my end, my dessert. And then I'm finally I'm stopping with a quote and a thank you slide. So now that I've divided my deck once, I'm gonna divide it again. So here I've placed markers where there were clear delineations in my content, and you can see I've actually added some slides where I've called out where the dividers are gonna be, so the breaks are right before the dividers. These are pretty simple outline skills that I'm doing in a visual way, so rather than delineating through bullet points, or titles or anything like that, I'm actually doing it in the slides, because this is gonna help me with my pace. This is going to tell me how many breaks I'm gonna have. If there's way too many slides before or after one of these breaks, that's gonna tell me that I either need to go through those slides very quickly. There's something about that that's gonna increase my pace. Or it's gonna tell me that I need to re-divide that section. The more that you place rhythm in your outline, the more it's gonna come through in the end of your deck, and then finally in your presentation. This is the basics. This is the core building blocks of what's gonna become our final deck. So, here you can see I've divided this this into actually three places, 'cause I have section one, two and three, and then I have a lot of different slides in there, and each one of them is its own division in a way, but I wanted to make sure that I grouped things appropriately. The way the human brain works, we already group things in our mind especially visually, but we also group things when we're learning as well. If you're learning a phone number, that's why we divide it into a couple digits, and then a couple digits, and a couple more, because if we see all them all in a row, it'd be really hard to retain all of them. So as you're dividing your slides, keep that in mind. You're doing this to make your audience's life a lot easier. They'll be able to absorb more information, and respond better and pay more attention if you're dividing things more appropriately, and that starts in your outline. This by the way is a lesson for all three levels of decks, so it'll be used from green to red, but it is especially important in the yellow and red versions, because the more you divide this, the easier things are gonna be farther down the line. So if that's a deck that we created ourselves, so we had control over that content. We were the ones making the outline. Let's talk about another scenario that happens quite often, where we are provided content, and we are asked to make that outline. So this is the case where these slides here were taken from a Word document and the first thing that I did, my very first set of division was I took all of the content out and I put it each in a slide. Now sometimes you are not going to use a slide deck. Sometimes it's just gonna be you standing there on a stage. If that's the case, I still recommend using a program like this to divide out your content into these slides, because that's how presentations are naturally sort of they flow by thought from thought to thought. From idea to idea. And we wanna bundle those ideas. It's a lot easier to do it in a slide program. It's also a good habit to build, because you start to get to know these programs a little bit better, the more that you're working in them. So, this is a deck that I was received, that I received from a client, and they said, you know, this is what we have so far. I divided it first, then I put it on into different slides. I basically just did it from how they gave to me, so if there was a section that had a new header, I put it right here, and the first thing I wanna do is take a look at sections that have a lot of content in them, and I may want to consider splitting. Often times as a presenter, I'm not just asked to design a slide, or a deck, or a presentation, or to reorganize it, but I'm also asked to edit it appropriately for proper presentation, and one of the things that we wanna look for is especially in a deck, whether something should be visual. Should it be known? Or should it just be talked about? And right away when I went to these two pages, I noticed that there was a lot of content. You can see that the headers are identical, because this is all actually technically one side, but I wanted to divide it up, because there's a lot of stuff here. So the first thing I noticed is that, and when we say meeting your challenge, there's two sort of subheaders here. This one over here says fresh ways to, and this one says you want. But why can't that just be part of the headers? So the first thing that I did when I looked at this deck is I took these and I said meeting your challenge colon fresh ways to. And then an ellipsis. And what that does is it starts getting rid of some of this content here, and starts putting it in others places that a little bit more sense. As your massaging the content of these decks, and you're putting in the outline, you're gonna find a lot of small things like that, which aren't direct revisions to the content. It's not changing the idea of the slide, but it's changing how the slide is paced out, and it's also gonna change how you talk about it, because then as I present this I would say, we're gonna talk about meeting your challenge. The first part of that is fresh ways to. It's a natural subheader. It's a natural sub-bullet. So why instead of making it a bullet point, 'cause it's the only bullet point on the page, which is kind of odd, too. We'll talk about distraction triage in a little bit. Take that out and put it somewhere in the header, and then that way as you do those little changes, those little massages to your deck, things start to make a little bit more sense, and they actually look less big and scary. You don't have so much on this slide. You've cut some of the text without even cutting it. You just moved it around. And then the next thing I wanted to do is the same thing over here so I did meeting your challenge you want, and then I went and I looked at some of the content like down here. This phrase, we have experience and unique insight to deliver this vision. Well apart from that being an extremely buzzword filled, and sort of nonsensical industry sentence, I wanted to find some way to make that a little less, a little more impactful. So what I did was I took that out and I said you know what? You're gonna say this. And then we're gonna one slide, and it's gonna say vision and that's it, and what you're doing there is you're creating, first thing you're doing is you're trimming your outline, so you're making it a lot less scary, and then you're also giving the presenter something that's really really impactful, instead of reading off of a slide, which we'll talk about in a minute, and instead of doing some see say, you're just giving them one single word, and you're trimming down your outline. Now that means that the number of pages here are gonna increase, so after this page, I would've added another one that just says the word vision, and then it would be a continuation of these slides. So we wanna look very closely at our content, and figure out where we can start trimming down some of these words in the actual pages themselves. If you want to keep some of this for notes, for presenter notes that's fine. A lot of these slide programs have a notes section, or you can start creating another document for it. We'll talk about notes in a second, but you wanna start trimming down your outline, in order to make it something that's a little bit easier to do design, too. That's the other thing. When you work with pages like this, this is incredibly difficult to design. This is one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five bullet points with some sub-bullet points. There has to be a better way to do this, because having all of these words on a slide is just simply not impactful, and it also causes the presenter to start reading off of them. So, in addition to looking at your content directly to try to split it up, take your content, and make big changes to how things are structured, and do it with an eye for making it easier to design, easier to present. So here for this one, I just usually make notes right directly in a slide program, but one of the things that I also found is helpful is just print it out. Print out the whole thing. Put it up on a wall somewhere, and just start writing all over it. That's an extremely fast way to get a full visual of your complete presentation along with seeing what you can do to these slides. You can also make some time notes as well. Say, this section's going to be ten minutes long. I only wanna spend five minutes on this section. When you break things up just like I've broken up my presentation into three big sections, and then each one of those has some smaller sections. It looks a lot easier to deal with. It makes you, it lets you wrap your head around all of the different things that you need to say, and it makes your life a lot easier. The more confident you are working with this material by splitting it up and seeing it for each piece what it is, the easier it is you're gonna work with it. So here I've done some things where there weren't any natural dividers in any of this content, so I decided where the dividers should go. This was a suggestion, because I did have to run this by the client. So I found some natural divisions, and I said is this, are these places where we can pause, where we can say, hey guys, alright we've just gone through that session, here's a little quick recap, what do you think? Or whatever they want it to do. If there was no question session, or they wanted to wait til the end, at least have some sort of divider where you take a breath, you can a pause, you let the information absorb, you reset, and then you start your next path. This is really easy to do. Early on in the deck we wanna do this now while we're working in the outline with the content. One of the other things I did, you'll notice you'll see the word split, and I use this quite a lot where I will divide up slides, and the reason for this is because to be frank, slides are cheap. I mean, it's really easy to make a new one. We'll talk a little bit about slides versus handouts in a little bit, but often times I will look at a piece of content, and I'll say you know what? These are important points and we're talking about these for minutes at a times, so let's go ahead and make them a separate slide. So that means that you'll get a slide like this, where you'll have three different bullets, and we'll take that and we'll make them each its own slide. Now that doesn't mean that we're changing the content around. It's still organized in a very specific way. We haven't changed the order, but we've taken that and we've divided it up, because each point is gonna be talked about specifically on its own and that has to do with see say which we'll talk about, whether or not words should be on your slides, and when they need to be in your notes, but one of the last things that I did was create these slides called hero slides. So when I create a hero slide, that is a little bit different than a regular slide, because it's gonna have one single idea on it, and it's not quite a divider, but it's something that I'm gonna go through pretty quickly where I'm gonna stop, pause, take a note and then keep going. Now as a caveat, this is a little bit different than, this is more of a typical presentation, instead of a teaching presentation. That has its own tricks and things to it. Right now we're just talking about more of a pitch style. This was a pitch deck that we worked with. So I was able to make these divisions. Get sign off on the client and then move ahead from taking my outline to the next step, which is actually developing a deck and some notes. So, like I said before, your outline is going to evolve into your deck and your notes. You can take the exact slides that you were working with here while you were creating your outline, where you were doing your divider slides, you were making notes on them, and we're gonna go ahead and use that for our deck. So save a version of it. Call it, you know, use that version control system, and then transform it into your deck.

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Ratings and Reviews

Jude Temianka

Great course with lots of handy tips. I often find myself having to prepare and give presentations at short notice, and a lot of the preparatory advice that Matt gives falls by the wayside as I frantically jump straight into production mode. I often have the feeling to overwhelm my audience with too much information because I don't take the time to step back and determine what content matters most. Super tangible advice that I will be implementing!

Tomas Verver

As a presentator designer I think Matt has an interesting approach on how to create and deliver impactful presentations. Presentations are important part of you career. Presentations can change the company's future, your own future and the world. Making them impactful is very important. At the moment we have still many presentations but many can improve big time. And we have more presentations online (at) the moment.


Found this course concise and informative. Would recommend to all who have to do presentations.

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