When giving a talk — whether it’s a three minute pitch of a new idea, or a forty minute lecture on a topic — I find it very useful to do a quick, visual cover sheet for what the flow & the punch of the talk should be.
It forces me to focus on what the audience’s experience of what I want to communicate to them. I know the jumble of points, background & insights I want to convey — but what do I want the audience to experience in terms of emotions, narrative, & tweetable lines? And most importantly, what do I want them to remember a few hours later, when they describe it to a friend? Outlining those key takeaways — as well as trying to deliver the right emotional arc and tweetworthy lines & pictures — is an essential planning step for me. It’s a good forcing function to get directed, engaging, and intentional.
And once I have this visual pre-cap of my talk, I can also keep it in my mind as I’m actually giving the talk. I can think about where I am on the emotional journey, or if I’ve hit the points I wanted to hit. This little bit of structure lets me avoid having index cards or other written guides while I’m talking. I don’t have to say any exact words right, I just need to hit those points and arcs that I’d sketched out before.