Giving a short pitch to a potential client? Sharing your work with a current client? Short presentations can be tricky because we often don’t have much time to prepare, but lots of nuances we want to convey. At DevMynd we regularly find ourselves needing to communicate complex ideas in a clear, engaging way to our clients and even our own team.
It’s not easy to tell a story in simple but thoughtful terms that your audience can understand and be moved to action by. That’s why at DevMynd we use a storytelling process to quickly organize our thoughts and hone in on the heart of the story we want to tell. Using a process to organize thoughts and support them with visuals and micro-stories can boost anyone’s presentations.
Here’s a short step-by-step guide for how we consistently create captivating client presentations at DevMynd:
Write it all down
Jot down all thoughts or ideas that come to mind about the topic you want to convey. Quantity over quality is what counts here! You’ll flesh out the story later. For now, just get all your thoughts out onto the page. I like to use Google docs for this because I type more quickly than I write by hand, but a good old pen and paper work just as well.
Make a physical outline
Here it’s important to shift from digital to physical. At DevMynd we like to use blank storyboard printouts, but sticky notes work well too. This is a step I learned here at DevMynd and has been extremely helpful for articulating my thoughts in a quick, clear way, and because it gives me a physical artifact I can share with my teammates to get their input. You can only write so much in a little square, and that’s the point. It helps you organize your thoughts into a simple narrative.
The key is to concentrate on storytelling. Start by setting the context. Why is this important? What is the most important concept you want to convey? Don’t jump from idea to idea but write a flowing narrative. Explain it in simple but thoughtful terms. That’s what this step is so helpful for.
Transfer your outline to digital
Transfer your physical outline into simple digital slides. Don’t worry about images, fonts, or color choices. Simply transfer what you’ve physically written down into a list of slides.
When you’ve transferred your handwritten boxes to digital slides look them over. How does the story flow? Do any slides need to be rearranged? The “Light Table” view in Keynote is very useful for this. Read through each slide in order and make edits as you go.
Create a visual template
Once the flow feels good, create a visual template for your slides. Visuals are crucial to conveying your message the way you intend it. They subconsciously guide viewers to shift their thoughts while taking in content.
If you’re on a team you may already have good slide templates that you can work from. If not, I recommend keeping it simple using clear typography and solid color or full-bleed image backgrounds. Using your client’s colors and typography can be a nice subtle way to show empathy. Building up a stockpile of team photography will also really help for these quick presentations. The more presentations you give, the faster this step will become.
What’s useful about creating a template is that each similar slide in your deck has a similar format. For example, title slides should have the same style as each other but look different than context slides or explanatory slides. Not only will this help save time deciding how each slide should look, but it will make your presentation more clear and understandable.
Apply your template styles to your digital outline
Use the template you just made to flesh out each slide in your outline. You’ll probably realize that your template needs some tweaking as you go. Just make sure you stay consistent, otherwise, your presentation may become more confusing than helpful.
Here’s where thoughtful background images can help underscore the story(s) you’re trying to tell. For example, in one presentation we wanted to convey to a potential client that the product they had was functional, but could be so much smoother for users with deeper design consideration. To underscore our point we popped in a split screen of a traffic-laden city intersection with stop lights and a smooth-flowing highway interchange. Functional but stressful to sophisticated and smooth. Linear and brutal to curvy and elegant.
We call these “micro-stories” here at DevMynd and they add color to any argument you’re trying to make. Humans thrive on things they can personally connect to and this is the part where you can create emotional connections that are outside the subject at hand.
Some sites we like for quick, high-quality photography are Unsplash and The Stocks
Read it through and make tweaks
Go slide by slide to get a feel for how the story flows. Practice your voice over. Are there awkward spots where you don’t quite know what to say? Make a tweak, reorder slides, or better yet, take some out. Here’s where you want to be ruthless about cutting out slides that hurt your momentum and don’t add to the overall story.
At this point, your story should be ready to go! There are plenty of resources out there for how to deliver a great presentation, but knowing your story, telling it in a concise and compelling way, and backing it up with thoughtful visuals and micro-stories will go a long way toward setting yourself up for success.