• Scott Stiefvater

When preparing for your next presentation, pretend writing doesn't exist.

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

What if writing didn't exist? How would you prepare for a presentation? No words on slides. No outline. No notes. How would you ensure you can speak intelligently about your message?

Wait, why are we even asking these questions?

Many habits and attitudes associated with writing hinder us when we speak.

That's a big statement that deserves explanation, but this article would get really long if I tried to explain things here. If you're curious, these past blog articles provide some insight:

The worst thing about mainstream presentations: what they do to time.

Why we freeze-up in presentations and how not to.

Stop protecting your script and your status with Q&A.

Writing and talking are very different activities.

Treat this as an experiment.

What I'm hoping you'll do is trust me and give writing-free prep a try. You need not do it for an entire presentation. You can pick a portion of a presentation – a portion for which you have a clear message to convey – and experiment with just that portion.

Think of your message as a bubble containing a bunch of ideas.

Boil the message you want to convey down to a single sentence. Say it out loud numerous times, playing with the words until you feel you have a solid message.

Picture that message as a bubble. Within it floats various ideas that support the message. Ideas that are more central to the message float toward the center of the bubble, but there is otherwise no order to the ideas.

To secure the ideas in your mind, talk to yourself.

Choose one of the ideas floating in the center of the bubble. Think of the idea as constructed of sentences/thoughts. Talk through the thoughts. Talk out loud or in your mind. Let the words evolve as you hone the idea. Some words will stick and that's fine, but don't create a script in your mind. Trust you can and should express the idea with different words each time you express it.

Talk through this same idea until you feel you can recall the idea without a lot of effort. Then choose another central idea to hone and secure. Repeat this process for those ideas you think the audience will need you to share with them in order to receive your message. Typically, less is more.

Make a quick, loose plan.

When it is getting close to presentation time, choose which idea you think you'd like to lead with but remember the bubble; you aren't bound to any preconceived order. You are free to take your cues from your listeners. You are free to trust you instincts. The message is the real gift you are giving to your audience, not the ideas that support it. Give them the message.

Give it a try. See what happens. See if you like it.


© 2021 by Scott Stiefvater,

(anti) Presentation Coach


Tel: 925-586-3517

San Francisco Bay Area


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