Presentation Planning Guide: The Three Key Ingredients

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by Olivia Mitchell from Speaking about Presenting

 When I first started presenting I would take ages to write a presentation. I wanted it to be perfect. I’d brainstorm, do research and then painstakingly put it all together.

Sometimes the presentation was a success, sometimes it was ho-hum. And I didn’t really know why the good ones worked.

As I got more experienced I streamlined my system for planning a presentation and started to find out why some presentations worked and others didn’t.

Ten years ago my partner and I started teaching presentation skills to other people. Using the feedback from the hundreds of people we’ve taught, we’ve continuously tweaked the system to make it as effective as possible. There are three key ingredients:

1. Plan your presentation around one focal key message
People can only remember a limited amount from a presentation. It’s up to you as the presenter to take charge of what the audience will remember. You can do this by deciding what is the key thing you want your audience to remember – that’s the key message. Then build your presentation around this key message.

2. Rigorously edit the presentation
Not only can people remember a limited amount from a presentation, most presenters talk far too much. All those words and waffle make it harder for the audience to discern what’s important. So rigorously edit your presentation. Cut anything that doesn’t support the key message. Then your key message and important supporting points will stand out.

3. Never make a point without backing it up with evidence or an example
Too many presentations are lists of facts or opinions. Not only are these presentations boring – they also lack credibility. Add evidence for your opinions and facts and your presentation will become both engaging and convincing.

We’ve written a short pdf guide that walks you through designing a presentation using our system. It’s free for you to download. Using the Guide to plan your next presentation will help you:

  • Save time
  • Ensure you meet the needs of your audience
  • Keep your audience engaged
  • Achieve the results you want

Download the Guide from this page.  You’ll also receive follow-up tips by e-mail to help you get the most out of the Guide. 

For more information visit: Effective Speaking


6 thoughts on “Presentation Planning Guide: The Three Key Ingredients

  1. Pingback: The three key ingredients for planning a presentation : Speaking about Presenting

  2. Simon Raybould - presentations trainer in the UK

    Hi – I’m absolutely with you for tips one and two! Aboslutely.

    I’d like to split hairs on tip three, though…. sometimes people don’t want or need the evidence: the key thing is that you’ve *got* the evidence for those people who do. Just occationally, taking people through the evidence, if they’ve already decided they agree with you, will bore them and reduce the impact of your talk.

    Sometimes of course, you absolutley need it. My solution is to have it available but to judge my audience as to whether they want it or not. Often I simply include my evidence/data in the handouts, rather than the presentation itself.

    Cheers…. Simon

    PS: Can we split tip two into 2a and 2b? Both of which say the same thing… edit and then edit again! 🙂

  3. terrygault


    Your suggestion about boring an audience with evidence if they are already on your side is useful.

    Personally, even if an audience already appears to have “bought in” to my point, I make it a habit to ALWAYS provide an example. This is not merely with the intent to persuade but to provide the audience with real world examples. So often in delivering presentations or leading workshops, I have been asked to provide examples that I simply do it as a matter of course. It adds weight to the point and it is more likely to stick in their memory.

    I agreed with you on “edit and then edit again”. We need to be merciless in editing, willing to throw out our favorite thing if it does not serve the message.

  4. Simon Raybould - presentations trainer in the UK

    Hi – sure, no arguement from me that an example is (almost) always a good thing… I was thinking more of the kind of presenter who goes through everything in (pre-programmed) detail, taking up valuable time when he could be telling me something new.

    An example takes only a few seconds (minutes at most) so no problem with that at all!


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