The Quickest Way to Create a Presentation -- Without Losing Quality

September 1, 2014

Deadlines. We all have them. What do you do when your boss tells you you have to present to the executive team in a few hours? Or perhaps you've put off drafting that dreaded deck for a bit too long. Either way, you're under the gun to produce a powerful presentation.

Don't panic. If you have to write a presentation quickly, here are some ways to speed through the first draft without sacrificing quality. Even if you aren't under deadline, these tips will guide you through the creation of any deck.

1. Reverse Your Process

Decide what your main point or key takeaways are before you begin writing. If you have more than one takeaway that you want your audience to remember, try to limit them to three or fewer: No one is going to remember any more than that number (that’s known as “The Rule of Three”).

Still not sure where to start? Ask yourself: What do you want the audience to walk away knowing? What can add value to your message? And furthermore, what do you want the audience to do after the presentation is finished (also known as a call-to-action)?

2. Choose a "Quick Formula"

Start your deck with an opening slide and end it with a "thank you" slide (boom -- you have two slides already!). Then consider one of these handy formulas for the rest of your content:

-Problem/Solution - Start by discussing the problem, then immediately jump into the solution as a way to conclude the deck. You can enhance this format with a little storytelling, for example: “In a world where cookie pans are too hot/ a hand-saving champion emerges.../ That hero is oven mitts.” You can also include multiple problems with a solution in one deck, similar to a FAQ page.

-Beginning/Middle/End - People love storytelling in presentations; it’s proven to be an effective way to enhance engagement and memory. You can easily utilize this format by treating yourself or your idea as the main character in a story, and then taking it through a fictional (or factual) beginning, middle and end. No matter what the presentation is about, it has a story to tell.

-3 Takeaways - Our memory works a little bit like this: “point one, point two, point three...I forget.” Start by introducing your takeaways, breaking them all down, and then reminding your audience what they were at the beginning.

-The Classic Pitch Deck - The pitch deck is favored by entrepreneurs and startups alike, and usually has some variation of a core structure. Here is the order we recommend:

1. Introduce the problem

2. Share your solution

3. Explain “why now”

4. Talk about the current market/competition

5. Dive into financials

6. Conclude with a call-to-action, for example, “Invest now!”

3. Slash Text

It’s going to seem crazy at first, but aim for about 6-10 words on each slide: Presentations should really supplement your speech, not be the entire text of it. This will also save you a massive amount of time writing the presentation.

4. Let Your Writing Stand Alone

Ever since the beginning of PowerPoint, rows of bullet points, data-heavy charts, unattractive clip art and strange word art choices have haunted audiences and crowded slides. Save yourself some time by ridding yourself of any “frilly”PowerPoint elements which have nothing to do with your written message. Using big graphics with minimal text will be much more eye-catching, and won’t require the audience to wait through an animated, blinking word art that says to them: “I’ve been inspired by middle school book reports.”

5. Write Quick, Edit Slower

Your first draft is going to be messy, but you can save yourself some time editing down your content by asking the following questions:

Was my main point clear?

Will the audience know all of the terms I’m using?

Will the presentation be easy to follow while speaking?

Is it memorable?

Are there any horrible typos or mistakes?

A strong presentation can be written quickly; it simply requires you to get to the point sooner and more efficiently. Find out what that exactly your “point” is, and build your slides from there. That’s all it takes.

Author Bio

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.

Follow the conversation and connect with Scott on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Photo: Stokkete/Shutterstock