How to build and deliver a slide deck

Public speaking can be hard, even when it is just a small group. Some people never get over stage fright. Some of us can just wing it and others read from a script.

There are some tips and tricks you can use to help you give a presentation well no matter where you are on the spectrum. This article isn’t going to be about dealing with the jitters, though this process will greatly reduce the effects of nervousness. I’ve seen very talented speakers follow some of these same steps to prepare because they still had stage fright.

You may have seen people start to ramble, stutter, trail off, or just plain get lost during a presentation. You may have also seen good presentations that just lacked in the delivery department. I think this process will help with that even if it can’t get rid of the nerves.

Brainstorming

Transition to slides

Just work these around until you get as much of the content as you can in the slides somehow. Don’t worry about being very structured yet. Just get the content in there until it starts to take form. The point here isn’t to complete the slides but to make a decent framework from your notes.

Talk through slides

As you find spots where you aren’t sure what to say or have trouble saying something then add speaker notes and start over on that slide talking out loud. If you have trouble with what to say then try a bunch of different ways to talk about something from your notes and see which one you like. Start over and try it again with that new addition. This is taking us from notes and brainstorming to fleshing out the presentation and making real slides.

Spend time on a slide by itself to just get the content in there. As soon as you have a very firm idea of what you want the slides to say you can start finalizing. It doesn’t have to be so complete that you can run through it all the way with no mistakes yet.

Finalize the slides

Do a practice run of the full presentation

It’s okay if there are some edits. There should have been enough combing through the slides building the presentation that there shouldn’t be a lot and the edits shouldn’t really be serious. If you find yourself doing heavy edits at this point you should revisit the content building.

Do a practice run with friends

Do this until you remember your presentation. You might have to get a couple different groups if you end up doing it several times. There’s no wrong answer here, just do it until you feel natural with the speaking queues you make for yourself. This will ensure that if you get nervous or lost during your presentation you don’t have trouble regaining your place. It will also ensure that you will most likely be able to keep going if you are very nervous.

Do a practice run with sample users

By this time your presentation should feel natural. Tell the audience up front that this is a draft run and that you’re looking for feedback. Take notes on all the feedback, and have a discussion for clarity. It’s important not to get carried away defending your creation or thoughts and just accept the feedback.

Hopefully this isn’t a major rework. As you do more presentations there will likely be very little more than speaker notes added and the occasional extra slide.

Deliver the presentation

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Steven Griffith

I was a software engineer for right around ten years before transitioning into management. I’m still growing in my new field.