Chapter 4:
Creating a Script and Storyboard

Dividing the Components of a Presentation

Preparing the Script

Creating a Storyboard

The Real World: The Best Laid Plans...


Chapter 3

Chapter 5

Chapter 4:
Creating a Script and Storyboard

After you have planned the basic content and structure of your presentation and organized it using an outline, you are ready to develop the two components of the presentation:

  • The script, which is what the speaker will say
  • The storyboard, which is what the audience will see.

Dividing the Components of a Presentation

As illustrated in Figure 4.1, you use your outline to develop your script and storyboard. While you are creating these components of your presentation, keep this basic premise in mind:

Say it with words; show it with pictures

Figure 4.1: Developing a script and storyboard

An audiovisual presentation is a combination of spoken word, text, numbers, and graphics. The key to success is speaking to the audience and showing them only elements that support what is being said.

Most audience members can only do one thing at a time. They can listen to the speaker, or they can read the slides and handouts. If you put large amounts of text or data on your slides, the audience members will be forced to spend most of their time reading, not listening.

If you want the people in your audience to spend their time reading, don't waste their time with a speech- -print a brochure and mail it. But if you want them to hear what you have to say, don't distract them with excessively complex slides. The slides you create should be an addition to the speech. Do not create slides that compete with your speech for your audience's attention.

Your outline forms the basis of your script and storyboard, but it is just a starting point. While you are writing your speech and creating your storyboard, you will develop new ideas about how to make your points.

Be flexible and adapt your presentation as you create its components. Don't hesitate to change your speech if a graphic enables you to say things in a better way. You may have to reorganize the way you discuss a subject because of the structure of the graphic you are showing. On the other hand, you may find that a graphic you planned to include is unclear or fails to communicate your message. No matter how pretty or dazzling the graphic may be, you should exclude it if it doesn't contribute to the material you are presenting.

Preparing the Script

Your own personal style will dictate how you give your speech. Consider the various styles of politicians, religious leaders, and other experienced public speakers. Each one has a different approach to stating his or her message.

Your goal is to develop an outgoing, dynamic style of public speaking that suits your personality. If you have a lot of experience speaking in public, you probably are comfortable in front of an audience and are used to the sound of your own voice. If you have never spoken in public before, there are a few things you can do in preparing your script to help your presentation succeed. No matter what you have to say, the important thing is to say it in your way.

Begin by Talking Instead of Writing

You might think that the way to begin to prepare a script is to write down what you plan to say. In most cases, this is the wrong approach.

People don't talk the way they write. Most of us learned to write in a very formal, academic style which looks good on paper, but is usually stilted and monotonous when read aloud.

Start your script by talking about the topics in your outline. Use a tape recorder to record what you say, and then play it back to get the rhythm and style of the way you talk. Then take the ideas you express verbally and put them down on paper, using pen and paper or your computer. Edit out the repetitions, digressions, the "um's" and the "you know's." What you'll have left is a speech written for the way you speak, not the way you write.

Review and Revise

Once you've committed your ideas to paper, don't keep them to yourself. Show your script to people whose speaking abilities you respect and get their input. Have them look for things you missed, faulty logic, grammar, and style. Get your reviewers' opinions on how persuasive the speech is. If they have time, read it aloud for them so they can judge how natural it sounds.

Begin revising your speech by incorporating the suggestions of the people who reviewed it. As you rehearse and create your storyboard, you will need to make other changes to your script. Revising and refining the script is a process that should continue almost to the day of your presentation. However, script changes in the last couple of days should be restricted to minor refinements, since there won't be a lot of time to change your slides.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Rehearse your speech as much as possible. Starting with your earliest drafts of your script, you should practice speaking aloud to get used to the sound and flow of your words.

A good speaker uses the script on the podium as little more than an outline. In fact, some experienced speakers throw away the script and return to their outline once the speech is well-rehearsed, allowing them to improvise and be more natural.

Script Formatting

The traditional script format is a double-spaced typewritten page. The double spacing allows you to make notes and insert slide-changing cues. As you develop your storyboard, mark your script to indicate where each new slide is to appear, as shown in the example in Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.2: Script with cues and notes

If you have the resources, there are better ways of formatting a script. With a laser printer that supports scalable fonts, you can print your script in 14-point or even 18-point type with at least 1-1/2 lines of spacing, as illustrated in Figure 4.3. In a darkened room, the larger text will be easier to read, and you will still have plenty of room for notes and cues.

Figure 4.3: Script with large type

If your presentation graphics program has a function for creating speaker notes, you can print a script pages with an image of each slide at the top, as shown in Figure 4.4. This type of script format has several advantages:

  • You establish a direct link between your images and speech, so there is less chance of getting out of sync.
  • The speaker doesn't have to look up at the screen to see the slide.
  • The speaker can make notes about the graphics directly on the script.
  • Each page turn is a reminder to change the slide.

Chapter 12 provides more information about formatting your speaker notes.

Figure 4.4: A script page created as speaker notes

Creating a Storyboard

A storyboard is the visual equivalent of a script. It is a collection of small sketches, or roughs, which serve as a guide for creating the final slides. You don't have to be a good artist to create a storyboard; simple drawings for charts and graphs, stick figures for people, and handwritten text will do the job.

When other people are designing and creating the slides for your presentation, your storyboard provides the information they need to create your slides. If you are doing it all yourself, developing a storyboard helps you refine your ideas for graphics before you actually create them.

Storyboard Formatting

The storyboard form is a convenient way of organizing your graphics. As shown in Figure 4.5, a form consists of preprinted slide frames (About 3 by 4-1/2 inches), with space to the side of each frame for notes. You can use your presentation graphics software to create a storyboard master and then photocopy it as needed.

Figure 4.5: A storyboard form

To create your storyboard, you sketch or write the content of your slides in the frame area. Write the figures for charts and graphs in the notes area, or if the chart data is very complex, on the back of the storyboard page or a separate sheet.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of creating a master storyboard page, use 3-by-5-inch or 4-by-6-inch index cards. Sketch the slide graphic on the unruled side, and make your notes on the ruled side. Figure 4.6 shows an example of index card storyboards. An advantage of index card storyboards is that you can easily change the order of the slides by rearranging the cards.

Figure 4.6: Index card storyboards

Work Small

If you use a full sheet of 8-1/2-by-11 inch paper for each slide sketch, you will be tempted to fill it up. The result will be too much information on the slide. What may be readable on a full page will be very cramped on a slide.

When you put the sketch within a small storyboard frame, you will find that too much text is unreadable; complex charts and graphs are difficult to understand; and diagrams and organization charts with many boxes are confusing. Use the limited size of the storyboard frame to help you edit and refine your visuals. Keep in mind that if your text or graphic will not fit in a storyboard frame, it probably is too much to place on a single slide.

Guidelines for Turning a Speech into Slides

The slides in your presentation should clarify and highlight specific points in your speech to reinforce the message. Choose the elements in the speech that are most important and design slides to illustrate those elements. The following sections provides some guidelines for developing the contents of your slides.

One Slide: One Message

As you work through your outline and script, remember that each slide you create should have a single message directly related to what is being said. In most cases, each paragraph or two in your script will require at least one slide.

Keep It Simple

To ensure that your slides increase the impact of the words rather than distract from them, design text slides that are short and easy to read and graphic slides that accentuate important points visually.

In your text slides, use short bulleted list items that are to the point. Stick to nouns and verbs and concentrate on the active words in your speech. In your graphic slides, make sure the illustrations, charts, and graphs are clear and concise.

Keep a Steady Pace

The pace of your presentation is an important factor. If you leave one slide on the screen too long, the audience members will become bored. If you change slides too quickly, they will become overwhelmed and tired. A good rule of thumb is to change your slide at least every 45 seconds during your speech.

This allows for Don't change slides so quickly that the audience can't read them. Each slide should be on the screen at least three times as long as it takes to read. That way, the audience is reading one-third of the time and listening to the speaker the other two-thirds. Your script should reflect this pace with slide cues that are spaced regularly.

In your script, put the cues slightly before the points that the slides illustrate. This allows for the few seconds it takes for the new slide to appear and for the audience to start reading it.

Take Small Steps

Your audience will have a natural tendency to read ahead on a slide while you're talking. You can prevent them from getting ahead by breaking up the information on a slide into smaller parts.

If you have more information on a topic than you can cover comfortably in a single slide, divide it among two or more slides, adding Continued in the title to show the connection. Even the Ten Commandments required two tablets.

Another way to prevent the audience from reading ahead is to use a build, or reveal, slide sequence. A build sequence shows the first piece of information in the first slide; the first and second pieces in the second slide; the first, second, and third pieces in the third slide; and so on. You will learn more about creating build slides in Chapters 9 and 10.

Let Your Pictures Do the Talking

Use graphics wherever possible to present your message. While listening to a speaker, an audience can absorb the content of a graphic much more easily than they can read even a few lines of text.

Too Much to Handle

You may find in creating your presentation that no matter how hard you try, there is one slide that defies any editing. It may be a complex chart or a table with too many rows and columns that cannot be reduced. If you are creating slides for someone else, he or she may just insist that 25 lines of copy is the only way the topic can be explained properly.

When you have a chart or table that is too hard to follow in slide form, include a copy of the information in the audiences handouts. Then you can use a pointer or some sort of highlighting on the projected slide, and the audience can refer to the handouts for the details.

If you are dealing with someone who insists on overloading the slides, create one of the slides to illustrate the problem. Then have the originator view it from the same distance as the back row of the presentation room. Most people will be more willing to edit the text when they see that the projected slide is unreadable.

The Real World:
The Best Laid Plans...

Thursday, October 4, 3:00 pm: Alan Smithee just got the bad news. Because of a contract problem with a major parts vendor, Alan must go to Tokyo for four days. His outline is finished and most of his script is done, but he has not had the time to prepare any of his slides in storyboard form. So he hands Ellen Jackson, our Office Services Manager, his notes, his outline, and the first draft of his speech.

"I'll work some more on the speech during the flight, but you'd better see what you can do with what I've got so far. When I get to Tokyo tomorrow, I'll fax you my script revisions, and you can fax me what you've done on the slides."

Friday, October 5, 9:00 am: Ellen studies Alan's materials and starts to put together a rough storyboard.

In the beginning of the outline, Alan gives an introduction to the management of Hypothetical International, so Ellen starts with a title and a few biographical slides.

In addition to including the usual biographical information, Ellen includes a photo of each of the officers. She makes a note to check with personnel or public relations to make sure good photos of the three are available.

We're lucky because Alan's presentation is actually quite general in approach. Most of his subject matter is the history and current state of the company- -information that Ellen can gather herself. She can safely predict a great deal of the content of his slides just by the outline entries.

Because of good preliminary preparation by Alan, a major disaster has been avoided. If Alan hadn't finished an outline and a rough draft of his script, nothing would have been done until he returned from Japan on Tuesday, leaving only a few days to create his entire presentation.

Alan's absence during this stage of the production process affects our production schedule. Because Ellen is choosing the material for Alan's slides, we can assume that there will be more than the usual number of changes and revisions. We need to anticipate a more complicated and extensive revision cycle.

We can avoid a lot of changes to the actual computer artwork by delaying production of Alan's slides and concentrating on George and Victoria's presentations first. By putting off Alan's presentation to the end of the slide-creation period, we give him more time to look over Ellen's storyboards and revise them to fit his needs.


Your script and storyboard represent the two components of a presentation: your speech and your slides. Here are some guidelines for developing them:

  • Using your outline as a guide, divide your presentation into words (your script) and pictures (your storyboards).
  • Don't let your slides substitute for the speech. Deliver your message in your speech and reinforce it with your slides.
  • Your script should reflect the way you talk, not the way you write.
  • Have another person review your script. Don't hesitate to make revisions. Practice your speech as much as possible.
  • Use a storyboard sheet or index cards to sketch your roughs.
  • Make your storyboards readable, but not fancy. Remember, they're just rough sketches for your final slides.
  • Tie the message of each slide to a single, specific message in your script.
  • Don't overload your slides with too much text or complicated graphics. If necessary, divide the information between two or more slides.
  • Maintain a steady pace of slides that gives the audience time to read your slides without becoming bored.