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From the desk of Steve Lowell, Master Speaker and Mentor to those who speak in public.

Preparing to Master the Stage

For Every Point, Ask, “Is This Really Important?”

After another twenty-four hours, come back to the space and for each sticky note on the wall, ask yourself this: “Is this point really important? Is it absolutely critical to my presentation?”

If the answer is ‘yes,’ leave the sticky note on the wall. If the answer is ‘no,’ remove the sticky note, but keep it handy for later. I like to place them on a separate wall, because I’ll be coming back to them.

Once you’ve passed first judgment on all the thoughts and added any new thoughts, walk away for another twelve to twenty-four hours. Can you see why it can take so long to prepare a really great presentation? This is the difference between a good presentation and a kick-ass presentation!

Keep coming back to the wall every twelve to twenty-four hours or so, until you have only the most critical thoughts on the presentation wall, all arranged in the order in which you will present them.

Now, it’s time to begin adding the supporting information.

Go back to the pile of sticky notes you removed from the wall and sift through them for information that supports your main points.

When you find sticky notes with information you can use, post them into your presentation, and in the proper location. Your presentation will take shape, and when you’re through, you’ll have everything you need on the presentation wall. You may need to come back to the presentation wall every twelve to twenty-four hours or so for several days until you have it just the way you want it. That’s just what it takes to do this well.

In his book, Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkinson provides a presentation template that breaks the presentation down into triads. This means there are three main points. For each point, there are three supporting points, and for each supporting point, there are three additional supporting points.

When the presentation is arranged in this way, you have three versions of the presentation. If you have five minutes to present, you can deliver only the first three points, if you have fifteen minutes to present, you can deliver the first three points and each of the supporting points. And if you have forty-five minutes, you can deliver all of the supporting points in the presentation.

The benefits of preparing a presentation using this sticky note approach are numerous.

You’ll have a well-organized presentation that’s been thought through carefully and strategically.

You’ll be able to deliver variations of the presentation, based on the amount of time you’re allocated. Since you have five-minute, fifteen-minute, and forty-five-minute versions of your presentation, you’ll be able to adjust your delivery on the fly if circumstances warrant.

This process also galvanizes the information in your brain, so you’re far more likely to be able to flow through the presentation without referring to your notes.

You’ll have a pile of extra sticky notes, each with information that could be added to your presentation if needed. This gives you enormous confidence, because you have a lot of extra material if you’re asked questions, if you’re given extra time or if your presentation flows faster than planned. Many of those extra sticky notes probably contain great fillers to add to your presentation if you have to.

So, what’s the lesson? Plan your presentation with sticky notes. They’ll help you trim it down and keep it relevant.

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