A visual design plan for a talk

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.
A visual worksheet for planning a talk
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.

1 Comment

I like you concise and useful approach!

It is similar to what I do myself when giving talks (I have made presentations at 8 national and international conferences) — but I am not an artist! However, artwork that my then-teenaged son did for one of my presentations was printed in an international publication. To compensate for my lack of artistic talent, I find photos to “spice up” my presentations — I was just doing that last evening for a presentation in 11 days. I try to make them amusing, like using a Tata Nano versus a Bentley Mulsanne to illustrate the difference between a low-end system and a high-end system — they will both get you from one place to another, so it’s a matter of cost, comfort, safety, etc.

I am a retired lawyer, and have been very actively involved in access to the law for more than 25 years. I am currently working on a project that will be highly useful to a certain segment of the legal community for helping make the law more accessible.

I’ll keep up with your work, and maybe one day contribute to it.