How To Present Well: Start Over

So we still haven’t touched the slides yet, which you oughtta find odd, particularly given my usual enthusiasm for slide work. Short of rehearsing rehearsing rehearsing, creating complementary visuals is the last stop in my process, only because, if my presentation can’t stand alone on text and speech, visuals won’t save it.

But we’re in a really good place. Fact is, even at this premature point, given what we have, I’m pretty sure our presentation is untouchable. We’ve got great handouts and a coherent outline. (Though I only posted the brain-dump draft of the outline back there.)

But now we throw the outline away.

This is one of the most empathetic steps of this assignment. It’s the truest indicator of my devotion to my audience and their experience that I’m taking whatever I thought my presentation was about and dumping it.

All that matters right now is what my presentation looks like through the lens of their handouts.

If I stayed the course I originally charted, we’d get by. I’m sure we’d get by but the handouts would glom to the presentation loosely in maybe a dozen places. If I stayed the course I originally charted, I’d be saying, “You guys meet me here.”

But I want to meet them there.

And this is only because the weight of fifteen people offering me an hour of their time positively crushes me. If this audience were any bigger I’d find the responsibility overwhelming. I hope you feel the same way. So many speakers do not. They see the privilege as the audience’s which, in the design world, is like original sin.

So I outline again using the handouts as a guide. I ask the question, what would make the most sense to the audience given the direction of their handouts? I note down choice phrases I’d like to tie to a particular page. I sketch down visuals (but only those which are absolutely essential to point-making) for retrieval tomorrow when I build the slides.

The ideal process should look something like this. Pretty, right?

My process looks similar. Pretty, right?

Afterwards, I compare notes, check if I missed anything essential I can reincorporate painlessly. This is tabula rasa territory, though, and throwing away work is always painful, even for purposes as goodhearted as these.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school teacher, former graduate student, and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

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