Chapter 3:
Preparing a Presentation Outline

Developing an Outline From a Plan

Using Outlining Software

Using Presentation Graphics Programs

The Real World: To Thine Own Self Be True


Chapter 2

Chapter 4

Chapter 3:
Preparing a Presentation Outline

Your presentation plan is a hierarchy of messages, which are the things that you want to tell your audience. You construct your outline- -the framework for your presentation- -from the facts that support your messages.

Developing an Outline from a Plan

Making an outline for your presentation is simply a matter of expanding and organizing the messages from your presentation plan. Each message in your plan becomes an entry in your outline. Then continue to develop the outline:

  • Add information that supports your messages.
  • Determine the relative importance of each message and fact as it relates to your primary message.
  • Organize your data so that it tells a story.

Outline Ordering and Content

Indent your presentation plan messages based on how far down the "pyramid" they fall. Move your elements around so that there is a logical flow of information. Then start adding your supporting information in deeper levels of the outline.

As shown in the example outline in Figure 3.1., your outline can contain anything that will contribute to developing the overall presentation. For example, an outline could include the following:

  • Bulleted list items
  • Chart and graph notes (Avoid actual figures at this point)
  • Speech notes
  • Suggestions for illustrations or photographs
Figure 3.1: Sample presentation outline

Slide Design Seminar

	Designing Professional-Looking Slides and Overheads 
	Using Desktop Presentation Software
	Good Design Principles Work in All Media:
		On-Screen Presentations
	Elements of Good Design
	Formatting a Presentation
	The Golden Rules of Slide Design
		Everything on a slide should:
		Engage the audience's attention
		Provide clear, concise data	
		Clarify the speaker's message
	But Most Important:
		Plan Ahead!
	Reflect Your Company's Image
		Type of Business
		Corporate Culture
		Corporate Colors/Logos/Typography
		Other Public Materials
		Individual Speaker Preferences
	Be Consistent
		Develop a Coordinated Color Palette
		Maintain Uniform Type Size/Position/Style
		Keep Illustration Styles Consistent
		Standardize Chart and Graph Formatting
		Watch Out for the Little Things
	Keep It Simple
		Don't overdecorate
		Give your information some breathing room
		Use format graphics to organize the slide frame
		Limit colors/typefaces
		Design for the person in the back row

Presentation Storytelling

After you have a draft of your outline, consider the overall pace and flow of the presentation. You should treat the flow of information in a presentation like the plot of an exciting story. Don't just charge into your facts and figures directly; create a little suspense and anticipation in your audience.

Start your outline with background information, and then zero in on the primary message of your presentation. In any presentation, you should try to create a moment at which the audience puts together all of your information and mentally goes "Ah ha! Now I get it!" Once you reach that point, you should briefly summarize your facts again and conclude your speech.

One of the best examples of how to structure any presentation is the format of the PBS television show Connections with James Burke. During the course of a program, Mr. Burke takes his audience through a maze of history, sociology, and science spanning hundreds of years, full of events that seem only slightly connected. Then, towards the end of the show, he ties all those events together to explain, for example, how a single event in the 1500s could start a chain that leads to the invention of the atomic bomb in 1945. When he comes to that point in his presentation, you can almost hear the audience go "Aha!" After his message is delivered, he reinforces it with a very quick recap of the chain of events, and then closes with an explanation of how those events affect our lives.

Structure your presentation as a drama to sustain audience interest and enhance the persuasive effect of your message. Let the information build to a conclusion (the main message of your presentation), reinforce the message with a summary, and then close with a strong call for action toward your goal.

In a multispeaker presentation, you can assign parts of the drama to different speakers. Let one speaker give the introduction, one deliver the "Aha!," and another summarize and close.

Using Outlining Software

Creating an outline can be tedious because you must juggle all your messages and supporting material to devise the best possible presentation. Using outlining, sometimes called idea-processing, software can make the process much easier.

Outlining programs, such as GrandView on the PC or More and Acta on the Macintosh, allow you to arrange your ideas and facts as easily as a word processor allows you to edit your final speech. Some word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word and Lotus Ami Pro, also have built-in outlining capabilities.

Many presentation graphics programs, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, can import files from word processing and outlining programs, so you don't have to reenter your slide copy from scratch.

Using Presentation Graphics Programs

A new generation of presentation graphics software has made outline creation an integral part of creating slides. For example, Aldus Persuasion and CA-Cricket Presents have built-in outlining modules that allow you to type in your presentation outline, and then create slides, overhead transparencies, and printed materials directly from your outline entries.

Figure 3.2 shows an example of an outline created in Aldus Persuasion. The program automatically converts the outline material into text and graphics slides. The various icons on the left side of the text represent slide titles and text, and the number of each slide appears in the left margin.

Figure 3.2: Aldus Persuasion Outline

The Real World:
To Thine Own Self Be True

Thursday, October 4, 1:00 pm: "This is boring!"

George Spelvin looked at the finished outline for his opening remarks and realized that the things he thought he should say and the things he wanted to say were not on the same wavelength.

Opening Remarks
	A Changing World Mandates Corporate Change
	U.S. Market Shrinking
		Continuing Domestic Recession
		Reduced Domestic Revenues
		Anticipated Cuts in Defense Spending
	Current World Market is Very Competitive
		Weak U.S. Dollar
		Japanese Protectionism
		Growing EEC Strength
	Hypothetical Built on Highly Competitive Markets
		Electronic Components
		Natural Resources
		International Trading
	A New World Order is a New World Opportunity
		Opening Eastern European Markets
		Vast Natural Resource Reserves
		Soviet-U.S. Joint Ventures
		New Trading Partners
	Uniquely Poised to Expand in Eastern Europe
		Existing Agreements in Hungary, Poland
		Strong Ties to Baltic States
		Experience in New Market Development
			South America
			Middle East
	Expansion is Capital-Hungry
		New Manufacturing Facilities
		Employee Hiring/Training
		Marketing and Legal Costs
	Our New Stock Issue is Seed Money for the Future
		New Capital to Pursue Joint Ventures
		Startup Costs for New Manufacturing
	You Can Be a Part of Our Future
	Our Management Report
		Alan Smithee 
			More About Hypothetical International
		Victoria Regina
			Current Financial Condition
			Proposed Stock Offering

As the founder and CEO of Hypothetical International, George was responsible for turning a small widget manufacturing firm into a multinational, billion dollar organization. He is a shrewd and successful businessman; but his main strength is as a powerful motivator.

George is a cheerleader. He's a terrific off-the-cuff speaker- -infectiously enthusiastic, lively, and articulate. The outline he produced, however, was a sort of laundry list of Hypothetical's plans for the next few years.

The information in the outline was all accurate. It gave a sense of where the company was going, but it wasn't the sort of speech that would get his audience excited about the future of Hypothetical International.

So George tore up his dry, "welcome to our dog and pony show" outline, and wrote nine lines.

Opening Remarks
	A Changing World Mandates Corporate Change
	Hypothetical International Thrives On Change
	The New World Order Is A New World Opportunity
	The Time Has Come to Expand and Grow
	We've Planted the Seeds, Now We Nurture Them
	You and Your Investors Can Be A Part of Our Growth
	Introduce Alan & Victoria

The entries in George's new outline were simple topics about which he could spontaneously improvise a few sentences. Each entry builds upon the previous one, to concentrate more fully on Hypothetical's future.

George's advantage is that he doesn't have to use a lot of facts and figures in his presentation - he has left that to his President and Chief Financial Officer. In his opening presentation, he can do what he does best: excite his audience and get them interested in Hypothetical International.

The main disadvantage of this type of presentation is that there isn't a lot to go on when creating the slides for George's speech. This presents a problem for Jim Gonzalez, as you will see in a later chapter.


A comprehensive outline is the key to a persuasive presentation. Use it as a tool for organizing all of the elements in your presentation. Follow these guidelines when creating your outline:

  • Expand your outline with facts, figures, and notes that enhance your message.
  • Prioritize and sequence the elements of your presentation.
  • Develop the flow of information in your outline so it tells a story.
  • Use outlining software or presentation software with a built-in outliner to organize your presentation.
  • Whenever possible, import the information from your outline into your presentation graphics software to create your slides.
  • Don't be a slave to an overly organized outline. If your personal style is more freewheeling, put the topics on which you want to spontaneously expand into your outline.