Find Your Destination: Crafting Impactful Presentations

A friend of mine told me I should buy stock in 3M, because I go through so many Post-It Notes. She’s right. My office walls are covered in them.

Every time I write a speech or a major document I begin the project with a brainstorming session. I collect all my ideas, stories, stats and key points on Post-It Notes, and place them on my wall. I consider what I want to say, I analyze my audience and I try to isolate the key ideas.

I love the physicality of brainstorming with Post-It Notes. They make ideas so much more tangible and real, and give them a gravitas I can’t achieve on a computer. They also feed a process of slowing me down, and purposefully considering what I want to say.

Identify your destination

When you dig a little you realize there’s never a shortage of content, ideas or stories to share. You have a lifetime of them. The challenge is how to focus.

To craft an impactful message – whether in the form of a speech, a movie, an essay or a book – you have to really isolate the destination:

  1. What’s the key message?
  2. What do you want your audience to do?
  3. What is the one thing the audience should take away?

PowerPoint and writing comes second. Figure out the destination, and then choose which stories, stats and ideas will get your audience there.

My wall of Post-It Notes helps me find my destination. Once I complete my brainstorming session I study my wall and group ideas. I try to pick out themes and patterns, and I keep asking myself, “What is the one thing I want the audience to take away from my speech?” Very soon it becomes clear, and I can begin crafting my speech.

Organize and tell a story

A visual wall of ideas makes the writing process faster. Rather then muddling around trying to connect stories, the process helps me discover my destination and provides a starting point for which stories to share.

When you lack a structure to craft your message you can get caught up in clichés and dated formulas. Nick Morgan wrote in a recent blog post,

The oldest chestnut in public speaking advice is to “tell ‘em what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell ‘em what you said.” … Unfortunately, that’s bad advice.

Nick goes on to explain a speaker’s job is not to tell the audience the destination, but to take them there. Organize your stories and ideas to draw your audience to the one thing you want them to do, and make it an experience – that’s when your messages get really impactful.

Before I put pen to paper, I pick the top stories I want to share. This is a culling process. The goal is to get the wall of Post-It Notes down to a small grouping of highly relevant, impactful messages. Each should build on the next, and all are working to pull the audience to a destination.

How do you craft your content?

We all have different approaches to writing and communicating? What’s your approach? Do you incorporate Post-It Notes into your creative process like I do?

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Jeremy Miller is Brand Strategist, Speaker and the President of Sticky Branding — a strategic branding and business development consultancy that helps companies stand out, attract customers and grow sticky brands.

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