How to Make a Presentation Outline

How to Make a Presentation Outline

In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to make a presentation outline. Presenters who pre-plan and outline their presentations say it helps organize their points and clarify their message. This results in more confidence during delivery! People who have to create a lot of presentations also said outlining saves a ton of time!

If you think your PowerPoint presentations could use some organizing, you’re in the right place. By the end of this article, you’ll become the wiz of planning and organization.

What Is Planning?

Believe it or not, the concept of planning far predates the existence of PowerPoint. In fact, it’s an ancient craft people have been using for centuries! It has existed ever since humans felt the need to conquer their disorganized brains. Yes, planning is not just used to sort out the points in your presentation. It’s practically an evolutionary trait we needed to survive!

Now that you know that, hopefully, you feel a little better. If not – you absolutely should! This means that anyone can be good at pre-planning! It’s in your bones! Just think of all the points in your presentation, and find the perfect time and place for them.

What Is an Outline?

The problem is: we plan all the time. We’re like planning machines. It’s putting all those plans onto paper, organizing them into categories, determining their relevance, and timing how long they’ll take that’s the tricky part!

But don’t worry if it sounds daunting! Outlining is, just like planning, an evolutionary trait as old as time. We were meant to conquer all those thoughts! And, just as we plan all the time – we outline! We make wish-lists, to-do lists, shopping lists, have-lunch-with lists, and that list can go on and on!

We outline our lives, our relationships, our money! So, this should make you feel pretty good as well. Outlining is simply an advanced stage of planning! It’s the detail of the action. Think of it as a huge grocery list, filled with different categories, organized by theme! A shopping list that detailed would surely help you navigate a large store much more efficiently!

Pre-Planning Your PresentationLearn how to make a presentation outline and organize all your points.

Now that you know how easy it is, we can talk about the specifics of planning your presentation. When you plan, it helps to look at the larger picture. Don’t think about the details now! Think about the main themes and the topic you want to cover. Be indiscriminate towards ideas that come to you. They’re all equally valid and deserving of attention at this stage! If you need some help loosening-up your brain,  these 8 creative thinking techniques used by famous presenters might just help you see the process through.

  • Brainstorm

Brainstorming is by far the most popular way to plan-out content. It’s the necessary part of every creative process. And it’s an essential part of learning how to make a presentation outline.  During this part of your planning process, let your mind go wild! You should always know your subject before you brainstorm! This directs your thoughts to find the solutions and ideas related to your presentation!

Since this part is all about generating ideas as to where your presentation will go, be creative with it! There are no bad ideas in this stage. Write down everything that comes to mind, and don’t worry about planning yet.

  • Ask for Feedback

It’s always a good idea to include your friends and family in the brainstorming process. If you don’t work in an office with a team to bounce ideas off of, ask people around you about the content of your presentation. Tell them briefly about your topic, and ask what seems most interesting. Knowing what people want to hear related to your subject can really help you plan an outstanding presentation. Remember that you’re the one who knows the topic best. Don’t just ask for feedback – lead the conversation. Use techniques like brainwriting in order to get the best out of everyone on the team.

Outlining Your Presentation

Now that you’ve brainstormed and planned your presentation, it’s time to get to organizing all the points. The first thing you need to do is to come up with the main themes of your presentation. A theme is a large point in your presentation that you’ll be trying to argue for. Your topic is broken into themes or points. There are usually three or four main themes per presentation. Try not to have more, as you really need to dedicate enough time to each one.

Once you’re done deciding on your themes, it’s time to organize them. In order to do this, you’ll need to decide what your main theme is among all of them. Imagine you’re giving a presentation about the lead generation. Your goal is to present a new, more consumer-friendly way to generate leads. Your three main themes are the ethics of conversion, social media, user experience. Ideally, you’d want to introduce with the first theme for some basic theory of consumer ethics, then move on to the field of application in the social media, and then talk about the user experience as the possible solution. Your last theme should always be the perceived ‘solution’ of the problem at hand or your ‘main’ theme. You should always close with the strongest point you have!

  • Get an Organizational Software

When you’re done with the themes, write them all on paper and leave some space in-between each theme. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be a piece of paper!

You can pretty much write your outline anywhere you want. If you have to make a lot of presentations, getting some organizational software to help you plan and organize is a smart investment. If you’re unsure about paying, there are plenty of free outliners to choose from as well. These tools are helpful for creating a visual display of your ideas. They help you organize your content by putting the abstract ideas into spatial relationships that you can observe. This helps put all your ideas into context. People who use outliners say they help them see the full picture of their content. This makes planning much more efficient and straight-forward.

  • Use Organizational Templates

A great way to create your outline without getting any software is by using the power of PowerPoint templates! One of the greatest ways to organize your content is to find the template that fits it like a glove. You can browse our website for free templates, and maybe you find just what you need.

There are plenty of organizational templates focusing on niches themes and subjects. Find the templates with categories that suit your subject the most. Then, proceed to fill the templates with your content, and look at the structure of your entire presentation in a single chart or slide!

  • Differentiate Between Statements and Arguments

Main points are your key points of reference in the outline. They’re your statements. They are you claiming something about a product, service, business idea etc. Whatever your PowerPoint presentation is about – you’re talking about a certain topic. And whenever you’re doing that – you’re coming from the place of authority. In order to prove your authority and the validity of your main point, you’ll need to argument your position. There should be no more than four main points or statements per presentation.

Each statement is supported by multiple arguments. There are usually 3-4 for arguments per main point. Arguments are your research. They’re the logic behind what you’re claiming. They’re all you have to say in favor of your statement. So better make sure you organize it well. The general advice is to start with your weakest argument and end with the strongest. This applies to each main point individually, but you can use this logic for the main points as well. Start with your weakest statement, and end with the strongest.

  •  Write Topic Sentences Beforehand

A topic sentence appears at the start of each main point in your PowerPoint presentation. If you want to know how to make a presentation outline, knowing a thing or two about topic sentences is a good idea.

The purpose of these sentences is to neatly introduce your main point. Your topic sentence should ideally announce all the arguments you’ll be using in order to support the main point. It’s also a neat stylistic tool. Its binding purpose is to be a smooth transition from one main point into another. So your topic sentence should briefly mention all the arguments you’ll use, as well as somehow connect the main points so that the transition seems logical and smooth.

For example, imagine you’re making a presentation favoring one product over another. Your first main point is about the lesser cost. Your next main point is about the ecological factors. The topic sentences between these two main points should be something like: Even if you don’t care about the cost, facts 1 2 and 3 make a great argument for its ecological advantage.

Now you know what topic sentences are. They’re important on your journey of learning how to make a presentation outline because they’re essentially organizational. They’ll help you organize your main points, which are practically the meat of your presentation!

  • Pre-Draft

Pre-drafting is a very interesting part of learning how to make a presentation outline. It’s interesting because it combines planning and brainstorming. This step is essentially writing down whichever information you know you’ll include on the top of your head. If you know your arguments, chances are you already know what you’ll be talking about. If you happen to come up with an anecdote, a joke, a nice sentence, or a piece of research -jolt it down where it belongs in your outline.

For example, if you got inspired for the subject by a recent study, you already know you’re going to mention it somewhere. Even if you haven’t done the rest of the research, you can safely assume you’ll use this study as an argument. Jolt it down under the main subject you’ll use it to support, and your job will be much easier when you begin drafting!

Remember It’s Only a Draft

In many ways, this is the most important step in learning how to outline your presentation. Nothing is set in stone. Transitioning from the state of brainstorming into the state of planning is kind of a shock for our brains These are two fundamentally different cognitive states of being.

Outlining is a pre-draft process. And even your first draft is supposed to suck! In fact, if it doesn’t – you’re not doing it right! Everything that you put on paper can be changed later. The purpose of the outline is to give you a bigger picture of what you’ll say. If what you want to say changes after you finish the outline, you can easily change the outline. In fact, outlining helps you re-evaluate your brainstorming, and really look at the information visually. This will naturally make you see all the flaws of the brainstorming process. And it’s important to catch those flaws early on and not while deep into delivering your presentation.

Now You Know How to Make a Presentation Outline

Now you have everything you need in order to plan your next presentation. Hopefully, you understand why outlines are important. They’re the very foundation of your PowerPoint presentation. So next time, before you start scripting, consider planning. Dedicate some time to the creative part of the process and brainstorm. Brainstorming is all about generating as many ideas as possible, so include friends, colleagues, and go crazy! Consider investing in outliners, or get some neat free templates that can organize the data for you. Know that everything you say needs to be backed-up, and plan for that content. And if you push yourself a little bit more, learn the art of topic sentences. If you learn how to use them wisely, your presentation will likely outline itself.

You might also find this interesting: 10 Easy Ways To Make Your Presentation Message Unforgettable