How to Create an Effective Presentation - 8 Tips

Steps in Starting and Building a Plan for Creating Effective Presentations
Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

Every presentation you make has one overall goal or general purpose: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. Keep in mind that your goal or purpose will determine how you construct your presentation, and the tactics and strategies you will use.

Step 1:  Invention -- Finding a Topic

To begin, start by listing all topics that come to mind.  Do not evaluate them; do not censor yourself. Keep in mind that brainstorming is a process, and you've probably been engaged in it on an mental level before you actually commit words to paper or the computer.  Once you set down the ideas, you can start to focus your thinking and evaluate options. 

Step 2:  Evaluate Possible Topics

Evaluate possible topics in terms of five areas:

  • Yourself and your expertise,
  • Your audience,
  • Available resources,
  • Preparation time, and time for the presentation.

Step 3:  Topic Selection

As you select among the topics, be sure to select one that is appropriate for yourself, the audience, and the situation. Also make sure you can find enough information to present a well-researched speech.

Step 4:  Align Purpose with Desired Audience Response

Your specific purpose--what you want to achieve--merges your general purpose and topic with the response you seek from your audience. As you work on choosing a topic, you'll frame the specific purpose.

Step 5:  Wording for Your Thesis / Topic Statement

Phrasing the thesis is a crucial step in topic development. Your thesis flows from your specific purpose and indicates how you will achieve the objective of your presentation. Written as a single declarative sentence, the thesis captures the essence of your presentation by incorporating the main points you plan to address.


Step 6:  Develop the Topic: Themes and Categories

Developing your topic starts with brainstorming for ideas associated with that topic. The next step is to identify themes and group them by category. These categories become the main points of your presentation and suggest the thesis--the essence of what you'll cover.

Step 7:  A Working Outline

Your topic, general purpose, specific purpose, thesis, and main points form the basis of your working outline.

Step 8:  A Tentative Plan for Your Presentation

The working outline provides a tentative plan for your speech that may change as you learn more about your topic and audience. This early work gives you a solid foundation for analyzing your audience, researching your topic, identifying appropriate supporting materials, and determining the best way to organize your ideas.