7 time-saving tips for planning your presentation

In my last post, I wrote about why it’s worthwhile to spend time preparing a presentation. But it’s also possible to waste time preparing a presentation, by not going about it in the right way. So here are my 7 time-saving tips to help you prepare a presentation efficiently.

1. Always be preparing

Professional public speakers have always advised aspiring speakers to be collectors of stories. But now also collect images, videos etc which could be useful. That way, when you next have to plan a presentation, you’ll have some resources at your fingertips, rather than having to search from scratch.

2. Start immediately

Start planning your presentation as soon as you know you have to give it. That way, you’ll think about your presentation during the cracks in your day. You’ll refine what you want to say and come up with interesting examples. By starting immediately you’ll reduce the total amount of  time you spend planning your presentation.

3. Break the presentation planning process into small steps

Planning a presentation can be a daunting process – and therefore we procrastinate. Break the process up into small steps. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Draft the Key Message
  2. Choose a three-part structure for the body of your presentation
  3. Collect evidence to support the points in your structure
  4. Plan the opening of your presentation
  5. Design PowerPoint/Keynote slides if required.

For more detail on these steps see my Presentation Planning Guide.

4. Don’t brainstorm

For most presentations it’s not useful to brainstorm material. (Note: I make a distinction between brainstorming and mindmapping. brainstorming is for generating new ideas. Mindmapping maps what you already know).

The art of planning a presentation is choosing just the information your audience needs to know – and no more. You need to cull information, not gather it. If you brainstorm you’re going in the opposite direction.

5. Rehearse before you think you’re ready

Many people waste time preparing far more information than they need. Once you have the basic flow of your presentation sorted, try it out. You’ll find out how much time it takes to deliver. And that way you won’t spend time preparing information that you’ll never have an opportunity to deliver.

If you have willing friend of colleague try it out in front of them and ask them to tell you how “ready ” it is. You may find you don’t have too much more work to do.

6. Pinpoint the research you need to do

Some people waste time by doing general research on their presentation topic. This is a waste of time.

Instead plan the flow of your presentation and then decide where you need to back-up your points with evidence eg: a statistic or a quote from a credible expert. Then go and find that evidence.

7. Let go of perfection

There is no such thing as a perfect presentation. Audiences don’t want a perfect presentation – they want connection, engagement and information that helps them. So let go of trying to attain perfection.

If you have difficulty judging when your presentation is good enough, rehearse it in front of a friend and let them tell you whether it’s good enough.

Note: After I wrote this post, I did a search on my blog for a link  and found that I had written a very similar post to this last year that I had forgotten about. D’oh! But the information is valuable and timeless, so I’ve decided to post this one too. Enjoy!

What tips do you have for saving time when you’re preparing a presentation?

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  1. Some good points here. I particularly like the point about mindmapping rather than brainstorming. I find mindmapping a very useful technique when preparing reports or presentations. Your mind is full of ideas and you have to get them out onto paper. But they don’t necessarily come out in a logical manner. Mind mapping is a good way of “dumping” the ideas onto paper and then organising them. In most cases you don’t want to develop new ideas. However, there can be situations where your presentation is intended to trigger a discussion on something new, so I think this tip is not necessarily applicable to every case. It depends on your objective. So perhaps an additinal tip is to be clear of the objective of your presentatin before you start planning

  2. Olivia,

    Great post. Worth repeating.

    I break my material into four general types: 1) claims (simple declarative sentences that express or explain my main points), 2) evidence that substantiates my claims, 3) illustrations, like stories and quotes, that illustrate my claims, and 4) audience participation, like Q&A, that involves the audience. I try to scatter each type throughout the sections of my speech. I use more of particular types for different audiences and purposes. So when I’m trying to inspire, I use mostly claims and illustrations and some evidence. When I’m educating, I use almost equal amounts of evidence and illustrations.

    I absolutely agree with you about perfectionism. It kills spontaneity and creativity faster than just about anything I know.


  3. Hi Olivia,

    thanks for the nice post.

    I especially like 3.5: Design PowerPoint/Keynote slides IF required. :-). Unfortunately, this is where many people start when they hear they are supposed to create a presentation.

    Maybe a tip would be to find out more about the target group you are presenting to, so you don’t waste time preparing something that you won’t need (e.g. the API details of Facebook to businesses who want to use social media to expand their businesses).


  4. Hello Olivia,

    Thank you for sharing your tips with us.

    Is it important to assess what can be presented in the time available for presentation? I mean once you know you have 10 minutes or 30 minutes to present, efforts to create content can vary.


  5. Preparation is a place where people really have no guidance. The last time we did something similar was for an essay at college, and a presentation is SO different to that.

    The other part is that preparing for a presentation is a somewhat creative process, and we aren’t necessarily used to the slightly non-linear progression of that. Point 2 is pertinent for this.

    Thanks for such practical advice – as always!