#051: Seven Steps to Developing Your Next Best-Ever Presentation

I tend to be a pretty linear thinker, so when I’ve been called on to craft a presentation or speech for a larger audience I’ve started by writing the introduction, and then plod along writing my way through to the end.

Writing Presentation

Sometimes I would get a little more sophisticated by building an outline of my speech, and then go back and fill in the gaps. Perhaps because of my years of sales training most of my presentations accomplished the desired result. But not all. In fact, some of what I thought was my best and greatest work failed to deliver the action that I wanted from my audience. What could possibly have gone wrong?!

While I was in seminary, I had the occasion to read several books on preaching (seems important that someone in ministry learn how to preach). Suddenly a light went on, and I realized that those presentations that didn’t deliver failed, because in reality, they were not crafted with the audience in mind. Preaching, by its very nature, is designed with the audience in mind. One thing the best preachers have in common is a knack for building sermons that resonate with the audience because they are crafted with the audience in mind!

Obviously developing a sermon is very different than developing a presentation for your company. But, the process used to develop a sermon combined with some solid selling techniques may be just what you need to deliver break-through.

Here are seven steps to guide the development of your next, best-ever, presentation:

1) Develop your Call-to-Action (CTA)

Begin with the end in mind. Think about what you want your audience to think, feel, say, or do as a result of listening to you. What specific action do you want them to take? Take some time to figure this out because it becomes the foundation for the entire process that follows.

2) Develop your Outline

Develop an outline of the main points of your presentation, keeping in mind that the outline needs to lead logically to your CTA.

3) Anticipate Objections/Excuses.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes for a moment, and make a list of the objections and excuses they might offer as to why they cannot or will not do what you are asking in the CTA. Answers to these objections and excuses become sub-points of your outline.

4) Develop the “Big Idea”

Now that you know what you want the audience to do (your CTA), and you have developed an outline that accounts for objections and excuses, it is time to bring all this together into “the big idea.” The “big idea” is the central, unifying idea that summarizes your presentation in a single sentence. It is comprised of two elements: the subject, and the complement. The subject answers the question, “What am I talking about?” While the complement answers the question, “What am I saying about what I am talking about?” Said another way, the subject is your topic, and the complement is your assertion about that subject.

This is the step that I tended to avoid. I wanted to get right into the task of writing my presentation, but don’t be tempted like I was to skip this step! Crafting your big idea will solidify in your mind the subject and complement of your presentation, and becomes the filter through which you will develop the balance of your presentation.

5) Revise and Refine Your Outline

Inevitably, once I have a big idea crafted, I need to go back and tweak my outline. Some points don’t support the big idea so you discard them. Some points just need to be revised a bit to bring them into line. A few minutes revising your outline now can save hours of rewriting later!

6) Write the Body of Your Presentation

Finally! We get to the meat of the presentation—it’s what you’ve wanted to write since you sat down at your keyboard. Well, what are you waiting for? Outline in hand, write your first draft of your presentation. Don’t worry too much about polishing every sentence as you write, just get it written. Once you’re done with the body of the presentation, go back and wordsmith it: make the words sing, and yes, fix the obvious grammar and spelling errors while you’re at it!

7) Write the Bookends of Your Presentation

You are nearly done, but what remains is the most important part of what you will communicate to your audience; the introduction and the close. The introduction needs to grab the attention of the audience and establish your big idea. The close needs to restate the big idea and challenge the audience with your call to action. The introduction and the close will not be the longest part of your presentation, but they are worthy of the considerable effort. If you do not hook your audience in the first few words and deliver a strong call to action as you close, your presentation will likely not deliver the result you were hoping for.


Sooner or later you will get the call; the call that asks you to present a new program at your company annual meeting, or deliver a rousing speech at an industry convention. When you do, get this piece out and begin by following these seven steps to having your next presentation be your best-ever presentation.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you had difficulties writing speeches or develop presentations that hit the mark? Do you think these steps will help you next time? Do you have any advice to build on these steps?

Next Week!

So now that you’ve written your presentation (and it is a masterpiece), you still need to deliver it. Next week we’ll look at some tips to help you wow the crowd as you deliver your presentation.

Category: Skills | Communication Skills


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