Photo WG2 Medium SizeHi.  Winnie Griggs here, with the next installment in my posts about speaking engagements. To read previous installments, see the links at the bottom of this post.

Today we’re going to discuss creating an outline for your presentation. And remember, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts, I’m a very strong type A personality so I tend to plan everything out to the nth degree. You can take this to whatever level of detail works for you.

One of the first things I suggest is that, if at all possible, you get an early start on your prep work. If you’re working with the coordinator of a large conference or workshop they’ll normally want a copy of your outline or workshop overview and perhaps even your handouts well in advance. And even if that’s not the case in this instance, you want to get yourself trained into this mindset so that when the time comes you’ll be ready.

Also, by developing your outline early, you can begin to determine what particular spin you want to put on the topic. It will also put you in the proper mindset to begin collecting materials, finding reference sources and playing ‘what if’ with your topic.

I developed the initial outline for the workshop this series of blog posts is based on about six months before I was due to present it. During that time, every time I came across a bit of information, either experiential, anecdotal or referential, that related in some way to presenting workshops, I stuck it, or a reference to it, in a special folder set up just for that purpose. And from time to time I would go into my outline draft, expand on my notes and play with rearranging, subdividing and adding and deleting bullet points. By the time I was ready to sit down and actually draft my speaker notes, much of my initial research and ‘letting the ideas simmer’ time was complete.

This framework is what you will hang your content on. A solid framework provides the flight plan to start training those jittery butterflies to fly in formation.

If you did your homework and started collecting information early, started letting various bits and pieces of information simmer around in your mind, then you should have some idea of the spin and focus you want to give your topic. You should also add to the mix any information you collected about the facilitator’s expectation as well as your audience analysis.

Now, let’s begin to get organized:

  • Take a look at your original outline and refine it to match your current thinking.  See if you’ve covered all the aspects of the topic that you intended to and discard those that no longer fit your approach.
  • Determine if the items are arranged in the correct order and if each section flows logically to the next. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a coherent flow to your talk. When speeches and presentations are poorly organized, the impact of the message is reduced and the audience is less likely to accept the speaker as an authority on the subject
  • Go to work drilling down to the next level of detail, expanding on your outline, and then repeating this process, until it forms a solid robust framework for your talk, giving you the major talking points you will be speaking from.
  • Make notes about how much weight and emphasis you want to give each item in your outline – this will help later when you work on the timing and pacing of your talk.
  • At this point, if the deadline for turning in your handouts is approaching, you can use your outline itself or a scaled down version of it, as the workshop handout.  We’ll talk in more detail about handouts in another portion of this talk

One note here:  Any portion of your research or notes that you cut or discard in this or later steps should be saved into a separate file. You may give a workshop on this same topic sometime in the future to an audience that requires a different focus or for which you have a different amount of time allotted.

That’s it for the outline.

Next time  I’ll discuss adding in the details and scripting your talk

Previous posts in this series:


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