Creating a Presentation

From SwinBrain

There are a number of different ways to create a presentation. In this page, we are going to discuss creating a presentation using the Beyond Bullet Points approach. The material on this page is a quick summary of the great material from the Beyond Bullet Points book, this book is really worth the read if you have time. The basic idea of this approach is to use the power of story to better convey your message. This style works well when you want to convince your audience to do something, or think something.

This is a How To article designed to give step-by-step instructions. Search SwinBrain and the external links if you require more detailed information about this topic.


Step 1

At the start you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is the presentation about?
  2. How long will the presentation go for?
  3. Who is your audience, and what do they want to get out of it?

Using this approach you really need to understand the message that you want to get across. The presentation should have one clear message, which can be supported by a number of backing points. Having one message helps focus your efforts, and the attention of the audience. By the end of the presentation the audience should be fully aware of this message, and your supporting points.

The basic templates provided with this approach facilitate 5, 15 or 45 minute presentations. Remember that this is just the presentation time and doesn't take into consideration introductions or questions. Typically a 15 minute presentation is sufficient for a 30 minute time slot. The timing is also dependent upon your delivery so there is some flexibility here.

Understanding your audience will help you tailor the presentation to their needs. Remember that presentations are a great way to get a message across quickly, but you need to make sure that it is the right message. Before tackling the presentation you really need to ensure that you have the message right.

Step 2

The Beyond Bullet Points Template

Now that you have the basic information about the presentation, we can start to create a Story Board that maps out the story within your presentation. You can download a storyboard template from the Sociable Media web site. The idea of the template is to structure the presentation to ensure that you will get the message across.

The basic "rules" of the template are:

  • Use full sentences
  • Use an active voice
  • Keep the text within the size provided. For Act I, Act III, and the Turning Point you must fit the entire sentence within the single line. For the remainder of Act II you need to keep the sentences shorter that 2.5 lines (if you are unsure copy it into one of the Act III cells to check that it fits).

Filling out the template creates the story structure for the presentation. The details that you enter into the template will become the slides in your presentation. Each slide having a single message that you are trying to convey. The title on the slide will come from the template, the details on the slide will include a graphic, image, chart, or diagram that visually reinforces the message.

Now that we know the rules what goes where?

Before you continue put in the title of the presentation and your name in the first cell (the one with "Insert story title and by line here"). For example "My IBL Experiences by Russell Mullens", or "A process for developing software by Andrew Cain". This will become the title slide in the presentation. This slide would be shown as you are introduced, or as you introduce yourself.

Act I

A completed Act I

The idea of Act I is to set the scene for the audience. You really want them to know what the presentation is about, how it relates to them, and what your "solution" is. If you don't get this message across to the audience quickly they will lose interest in the presentation, making it very difficult to really engage with them.

The following list explains the purpose of each slide within Act I. You need to fill out these cells with full sentences, sticking to the rules we mentioned above. It is usually easier to start the presentation with the solution, this is the message that you want to get across.

  • Solution: What do you want the audience to think or do differently after the presentation? Basically the solution should be the message you want to get across. For example in the process presentation we want students to follow the process so the message is "Use this iterative process to guide your software development".
  • Setting: In the setting you want to set the scene for the audience. Where are they and when is it? You want to bring them from whatever they have been doing into your presentation. Think of the opening scene of a movie as the camera moves into the movie, you want to create the same effect here. The details on this slide should relate to the presentation, but be something that everyone accepts without question. In the process presentation the setting was "Processes provide you with guidance, giving you steps to follow". This allows us to introduce processes, helping bring the audience's attention to this topic.
  • Protagonist: The next slide, the Protagonist, names the main character of the story. As the presenter you may think that this is you, but I'm afraid that it's not. The main character of this story is your audience. On this slide you want to reinforce this view, making it clear to them that this presentation is about them. In the process presentation this slide states "Developers need processes that encourage good practices". The presentation is for people wanting to become software developers so they should relate to the Developers named here. You can then talk about why processes are important for developers, making it clear how this presentation is about them.
  • Imbalance: Why are the audience here? What is the "new information" that they seek? In the example the imbalance was "Finding a process that suits you can be a difficult task". The imbalance seeks to set a starting point for the presentation. Here we want to emphasis that while processes are good and help us perform actions, we need to find one that suits how we want to work. This is the current situation, and one that we want to move away from.
  • Balance: Where will the audience be once they follow the solution? This helps them see the value in what you are presenting, you can think of this as answering the why question in relation to the presentation, why pay attention? The helps reinforce the goal of the presentation. In our example the why is "Iterative processes are known to suit software development well", hinting that using this process with suit our needs. The imbalance is the starting point, the balance is the ending point.

With these statements in place you have now set out the introduction to the presentation. The audience knows why they are here, what the new information is, where they want to be after applying the solution, and the proposed solution. Read over these and make sure that they flow...

Act II

Act II completed for the sample presentation

In Act II you now explain How or Why your solution will help the audience get to the balance they are seeking. This section of the template is divided into three columns, the 5 minute column, 15 minute, and 45 minute. You fill out the columns based upon the length of the presentation. For example, if you are doing a 15 minute presentation you fill out the 5 and 15 minute columns. Start by filling out the 5 minute column. These are the main points you want to make to support your solution. These should all answer the Why or How question. In the example the 5 minute column answers the "How", i.e. "How will an iterative process suit our software development needs?".

  1. An iteration is made up of a number of sequential steps
  2. Use multiple iterations, each building on the previous one
  3. Each iteration should end with a working program

The 15 minute and 45 minute columns then provide further details on the individual points. Each of the 5 minute cells is supported by three 15 minute cells, which are in turn supported by 3 45 minute cells. Each column answers either Why or How it supports the previous statement (i.e. 15 minute answers why or how the 5 minute cell helps, etc.). The example has the following details, with the 15 minute column stating how the 5 minute column works.

  1. An iteration is made up of a number of sequential steps
    1. Firstly understand the problem, and plan the iteration
    2. Next, design and test the algorithms needed for this iteration
    3. Lastly implement the design, and test your implementation
  2. Use multiple iterations, each building on the previous one
    1. Don’t try to design and write the program in a single hit
    2. Each iteration should only aim to add one or two features
    3. Before ending an iteration, refactor your code as needed
  3. Each iteration should end with a working program
    1. Build and run the program often when writing the code
    2. Run the program and test the new and existing features
    3. Fix any issues before continuing to the next iteration

The last slide in Act II (Turning Point) asks the audience a question, indicating the turn to the conclusion. The question should related to the desired balance. For the example the turning point is "Will this process suit your software development needs?".


The Act III for the sample presentation

Act III is the conclusion to your story. The details of this act include:

  • Crisis: No this doesn't need to be a real crisis. The idea of this slide is to reinstate both the imbalance and the balance. You want the audience to remember where they are now (i.e. the start) and where they want to be. For the example we reiterate these using "A good process helps guide you through the project", in the presentation you would also remind them that selecting an appropriate process is important, emphasising the "good" in this statement.
  • Solution: Yes this is just a copy of the solution from above "Use this iterative process to guide your software development". Here you reinforce the main message of the presentation and summarise the three main points (the 5 minute column) that support this solution.
  • Climax: This is the slide in which you give your final conclusion to the presentation. Here you want to make your concluding remarks and encourage the audience to try your solution. In the example the title for this is "Improve your chance of success with an iterative process".
  • Resolution: This slide will be shown as you ask for questions, and indicate where the audience can get further information. The statement on this slide should reflect the presentation without being controversial. In the example we used "Develop software iteratively".

With this done you should now review the entire message of the presentation. Check for things like "Does it flow well?", and "Do the points reinforce each other?". This template will have defined your message, it is important that you are happy with this before you go on.

Step 3

The process example slides in the slide sorter view.

Now that you are ready to continue, you need to convert the template into a PowerPoint presentation. Copy the text into a new document, pasting the text only. Then make sure that each statement is on a single line. When you have prepared the file you can use the File - Send To - Microsoft Power Point to take the details and make a presentation. The new presentation will use each of the lines of the word document as the title for the slides. Download the PowerPoint template from the Sociable Media web site and apply this to get better formatting for these titles.

For each slide you should now add a visual that helps convey your message. You can use full screen pictures, clip art, charts, or drawing elements. The idea is to provide the audience with a visual that helps them recall the message. The Beyond Bullet Points book covers a number of different ways of doing this which we will not cover here. The book also suggests the use of the markers (the red and grey slides) to indicate the position of the acts and the 15/45 minute details.

Step 4

The notes page from one of the slides in the process presentation.

The final step is to add the material you want to associate with each of the slides. Here you use the Notes Page of PowerPoint to prove the full details of each slide. This will help you form an understanding of what you are going to present, and also makes a useful handout for the audience. We print these two to a page, so the text is actually in quite a large font. Usually you try to add one or two paragraphs explaining the details related to the slide. If you converting an existing bullet point presentation you will find that you can copy the bullet points here, and then expand upon them providing fuller details.

Once this is done you have completed the presentation. You can read the titles of the slides to get a feeling of the message. The visuals on the slides support this, making it easier to recall. Lastly the notes provide you with much more detail than would have been supplied in a typical bullet point presentation.

Further Information

There are a number of useful resources related to this presentation style:

  • The best source of information on this is the Beyond Bullet Points book. This is relatively cheap, very easy to read, and a constantly useful resource as you develop your presentations.
  • The Sociable Media web site has a number of resources and forums that you may find useful.
  • We have developed a number of Word and PowerPoint macros. Email if you are interested in obtaining a copy (no support etc...)

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