← Back to Doing presentations

How to write presentations

Tip 1

Allow plenty of time to plan and write presentations

Try do do at least an hour of prep time for every minute of presenting time. If you’re the boss of someone preparing a presentation, make sure you allow them that sort of time.


Tip 2

Plan your words and your slides together

A presentation is the whole thing: the slides you show, and the words you say out loud. They need to be considered together when you’re planning and sketching out your presentation. Don’t do one without the other.


Tip 3

Make your slides easy to read and understand

Don’t make your audience think. Make it easy for them to focus on your message, and on what you’re saying out loud. Keep your slides simple and clear.


Tip 4

Manage your audience’s attention

Help your audience know how much more of your talk they have to sit through. Show them that you value their time.


Tip 5

Show the thing

Don’t use random visual metaphors in your slides. Show what you’re actually talking about, no matter how humdrum and ordinary it is. Bring it to life for your audience.


Tip 6

Write your own presentations, no matter how busy and senior you are

You will deliver a much better presentation if you have actually written it yourself, or at least played a part in writing it. Don’t treat slide-writing as a junior task, assigned to juniors.


Tip 7

Re-use old slides with care

Everyone re-visits old ideas and re-uses old slides. But put the effort in to make them fit with your new slides. Don’t just copy-and-paste to save time; your audience will see that you didn’t care enough about their time to do it properly.


Tip 8

Rehearse your presentation in front of people you trust

Don’t just read and re-read your slides. Rehearse as if you’re doing it for real: book a meeting room, ask some friendly colleagues to come along, and actually present to them. Practice the transitions and timings of what you say and what you show.


Tip 9

Turn question slides into statements

It’s easy to break your presentation up with slides that ask questions. Slides like this often fall flat, because they don’t tell the audience much and most presenters end up just reading the question out loud. It’s better to turn slides like this into statements that help tell the story.


Tip 10

Write ‘this is’ slides

Why it helps you and your audience if you write slides that prompt you to say ‘This is…’ when you talk about them.


Tip 11

Watch out for slide inertia

Slides have inertia, they tend to hang around as they get re-used and re-re-used. This gets worse in large teams and organisations.

Next: tips for How to present your presentation.