6 Simple Steps to a BOSS Presentation Outline

Written by: Adrienne Johnston

Struggling with how to develop your Presentation Outline? Good news: this comprehensive guide is going to walk you through the process of developing your presentation outline step-by-step!

Step 1: Identify the goal of your presentation

Regardless of your topic or venue, our goal in a presentation is always to motivate someone to the action WE want them to take.

From a pitch to investors where you’re seeking investment capital to a keynote at a conference where you hope to reach new prospective clients, you want your audience to take action at the end of your session.

Every point you make, every slide you design should be guiding your audience to the ultimate call-to-action. If you aren’t clear at the very beginning on how this will end, how will you build a clear presentation that moves your audience to that action?

Quick tip

If you’re struggling here, imagine looking into a magic crystal ball where anything is possible. Without all the obstacles and being grounded in reality, what would your ideal outcome be? What would your audience be thinking when you’ve finished speaking? What would they be motivated to do?

Step 2: State how the goal of the presentation will be of benefit to your audience

Ever heard of WIIFM? It stands for What’s In It For Me. Your audience has a plethora of distractions right at their fingertips or even on their watch! How are you going to compete for their attention in this highly distracting digital age?

You need to be very clear about how your presentation will benefit your AUDIENCE.

And then, you need to plan to begin your presentation by conveying that benefit.

Step 3: Brain dump all your ideas for your presentation outline

This may be one of the most difficult portions of creating your presentation outline – and typically the point where we get stuck. As the expert, you likely have an overwhelming multitude of ideas swirling around in your head. You want to tell your audience every single detail you know about the subject at hand.

But with only 30-45 minutes of time to convey your points, you don’t have time to spend on the details that while interesting, don’t drive your audience toward your ultimate goal.

Instead of allowing all those ideas to swirl around in your head and overwhelm you, do a brain dump and write down every idea you have that you want to convey in the presentation.

Step 4: Identify the three most compelling points you can make

To identify your three most compelling points, try bucketing all of the ideas you wrote down in step 3. In many cases, your ideas naturally fit into a problem-solution-benefit framework. Or a beginning-middle-end framework. Look at that: 1-2-3! You’re on your way to a solid presentation outline!

Once you organize your ideas, you will start to see a pattern in what you simply must convey in your presentation. And what you should exclude – regardless of how interesting it may be!

If you’re struggling here, I coach my clients to tell me their story in the same way that they would their grandmother or their child. This allows them to tap into their natural ability to convey complex topics and ideas in a really simple 3-5 sentence way. And, now, you have your 3 most important ideas or a framework for continuing to develop your presentation.

Step 5: Continue to flesh out your three main ideas

Building out your main ideas with data and stories is the most effective way to ensure that your audience follows your presentation and retains the information.

For example, if you’re writing about the impact of climate change, you need to find 1) a very specific and tangible hero that your audience can identify with and 2) demonstrate the impact of that story with data.

So, in the climate change example, I could choose a ton of animals that are impacted like cold water fish and pikas, but fish aren’t exactly appealing and what is a pika anyway?

Instead, I would make this polar bear my hero.

I’d probably show you this video and then tell you that the the U.S. Geological Survey projects that two-thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050.

You’ve given your audience a real-life, tangible example and then helped extrapolate it with data to make it more impactful – and drive them toward your ultimate call to action.

Step 6: End your presentation outline with your call-to-action

As you wrap up your presentation outline, prepare to summarize your key points succinctly immediately preceding your closing call-to-action. Make sure you’re call-to-action is clear, succinct and easy for your audience to take some immediate action on as the presentation winds down.

Your audience will rarely be more inspired to take action than they do in that moment. Make it count! If you need more help with closing out your presentation, check out this blog post.