A long time ago in a conference room far, far away, speakers used to give their presentations using a slide projector. Before computers were easy to move around, the slide projector was the all-in-one machine used to put graphics on the screen during a presentation. You may have heard of the Kodak Slide Carousel. You may have even used one in a presentation or two. To use the carousel, the graphics the speaker wanted to show during the presentation were made into slides. Those slides were loaded into a wheel and as the wheel advanced, a new slide was projected on the screen.
Presenters probably didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the great thing about the hassle of making slides was that you had to plan your presentation before you created visual aids – as it should be. Making these projector slides wasn’t easy. You had to pick out the pictures or graphics you wanted, take them to the photo shop to be developed and made into a slide, pick them up and keep them in the proper order for placement in the wheel. When you loaded them into the wheel, you had to make sure they were in the correct order and orientated correctly. It was a process and because it was difficult, speakers planned their presentation and visual aids before creating the slides.
As the personal computer become more ubiquitous, PowerPoint software emerged to take the place of creating projector slides for presentations. It is easier to create a PowerPoint slide, but it also allowed presenters to skip the most important step in their process – planning. It wasn’t necessary to do much presentation planning anymore and therefore many people stopped doing it. You could just open up PowerPoint, create a few bullet point lists, call it a presentation and pretend that would suffice for planning.
While it is nice to be able to create visual aids in minutes instead of hours, improving as a public speaker means planning for presentations using a tool other than PowerPoint.
My favorite way to start planning a presentation is on a blank sheet of 11 x 17 paper. I lay out my objectives, jot down notes about my audience, outline the type of speech, and make notes about the slides and time. This allows a free-form flow of information about what needs to be covered in the presentation. From this information, I am able to build an outline of my presentation that includes a description of visual aids that will be used. Only then will I begin creating slides in PowerPoint, after the speech planning is complete.
Your speech planning can begin on a blank sheet of paper, or a blank Word document, or any other tool that allows you to begin the planning process without filling in default bullet lists. Moving your planning process out of visual aid software will be helpful to improving your public speaking.
For a quick peek at a Kodak Carousel and how presentations used to be made, check out this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suRDUFpsHus
About Shoots Veis:
Shoots Veis, P.E. is the author of Public Speaking for Engineers: Communicating Effectively with Clients, the Public, and Local Government. He is a Senior Project Manager focusing on municipal engineering assignments involving water and wastewater systems, land development, permitting, and project management. He served for five years as an elected member of the Billings, MT city council. Shoots enjoy speaking to engineers about engineering presentations.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions on speech planning and design.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success