Comprehensive 4-Part Presentation Planning Checklist

This scenario may sound familiar: you’ve got a presentation coming up, but you don’t even know where to start. You feel overwhelmed, pressured and perhaps even a bit scared, especially if there’s a lot at stake. Your reputation – or maybe even your career – could be on the line. Don’t waste any more time and follow the presentation planning checklist I’ve prepared in this article. Be on your way to becoming a better and more confident presenter!

Benefits Of Using A Presentation Planning Checklist

Count yourself lucky if you’ve gotten away with being disorganized and unprepared in past presentations. You can’t expect to get lucky all the time, so it’s great that you’ve taken the initiative to know more about this particular topic. If you still aren’t sure if you should expend any more energy in preparing for your upcoming presentation, here are the key benefits of using a presentation planning checklist.

  1. Allows you to focus on what’s important

Having a checklist is handy because it allows you to work on tasks that have a direct effect on your presentation. You essentially have ‘blinders’ on, so you follow whatever’s in front of you.

Of course, you may still get tempted to procrastinate and do things that will have a negative effect on your presentation. Now, saying ‘no’ to these temptations will obviously depend on your level of self-discipline. But having a checklist on-hand will definitely help rein in those impulses.

At the very least, you’ll be able to estimate the time needed to spend on checklist tasks. You just need to make sure you don’t underestimate the difficulty of each item on the list, so you don’t end up panicking when you run out of time!

A checklist won’t only help you focus on the essentials, it will also prevent you from trying to reinvent the wheel. You don’t need to overthink things – just follow the items on the list and you’re good to go.

  1. Helps you get organized

As with most things in life, organization is key to a successful presentation. There are so many things that need to be considered when preparing for a presentation. It’s important not to underestimate any tasks on your list!

For instance, just because you already know the topic doesn’t mean that you can skip out on preparing for the presentation altogether. You’re probably thinking you can just fire up PowerPoint, type what needs to be said on the slides, and call it a day. So many presenters have made this mistake which further perpetuates the decades-old phenomenon known as ‘death by PowerPoint.’ You don’t want to be one of them, right?

From preparing the content to designing the slides and knowing what to say onstage (and everything in between), a proper checklist will help you prepare and deliver an outstanding presentation!

  1. Track where you’re at

It’s easy to get confused where you are in the preparation stage. You could be designing your slides one moment, and the next thing you know you’re getting called away on an important meeting. When you go back to your slides, you forget what you were supposed to be doing! Without a checklist, this is a very likely scenario.

With a checklist, you can quickly pick up where you left off. You may have been interrupted, but you can just review your list and see which tasks are still pending. Whether you’re halfway or already nearing completion, a presentation checklist will guide you to the finish line.

The Presentation Planning Checklist

Preparing for your next presentation? Check out this comprehensive 4-part presentation planning checklist

As I’ve mentioned above, presentations aren’t as straightforward as you might think. There are a lot of work that happen ‘behind the scenes.’ Hours of preparation and focus are essential to your success – this is why this checklist comes in 4 parts.

Part I: The Planning Overview Checklist

The moment you find out you need to give a presentation, go through this checklist. This stage is crucial – forgetting or neglecting to do any of the checklist items will have a negative snowball effect down the line. That being said, here are your checklist items for Part I:

·      Define your presentation objective

Setting a clear presentation objective is the first thing on this list. By defining your objective, you’ll be able to come up with the right content and the right message. But how do you exactly define your objective?

Wouldn’t it be enough to just say “you want to share your message with your audience?” Sure, you can say that’s your objective, but if you want to be taken seriously, then it’s best to have a S.M.A.R.T. objective.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. With this criteria, you can see that your goal of wanting to ‘share your message with your audience’ is far too general and doesn’t fit the criteria.

A good example of a SMART objective would be something like this:

To deliver a highly persuasive sales presentation on your latest tech product that will increase sales by 50% within the next 90 days.

  • Is the goal specific? Yes, it is.
  • Is it measurable? Yes, it is, provided you have a system place tracking the conversions from your presentation participants.
  • Is the goal attainable? Yes, it certainly is!
  • Is it realistic? Yes, a 50% sales increase is possible.
  • Is it time-bound? Yes, the goal is to increase sales within 90 days.

Write down different variations of your goals until you come up with one that will fit the SMART goal criteria.

·      What message do you want to convey to your audience?

Presentations are all about getting the message across to a group of people. But what exactly is your message? Even if you’ve been tasked to do a presentation on a specific topic, you need to think of a way – or an angle – that will capture people’s interest.

If your presentation is going to be on something most people already know, then you don’t want to share the same, boring information. It’s just going to be redundant. Think outside the box and ask yourself if you yourself would be happy to listen to your message.

If you’re doing a sales presentation, then don’t just focus on the specifications of your product. Your message should resonate with your audience, so it’s best to focus on the benefits. It should answer the question, “How will your product benefit them?” Then craft your presentation message around this question.

·      Who’s your audience?

Delivering the right message to the right audience is one of the keys to a successful presentation. Whether or not you’re presenting to a known or unknown group of people, it’s still a good idea to do some research beforehand. For corporate or in-house presentations, you most likely already know your audience, so your job is going to be a bit easier.

For unknown audiences, like in the case of most sales or marketing presentations, knowing a bit more about your prospects is imperative. You don’t want to pitch your products or services to people who will gain nothing from it. Make your presentation all about your audience, not about yourself. Cater to their needs and their wants. And you’ll find them more than willing to follow your presentation’s call to action!

Find out what your target audience’s knowledge level of your topic is. Are they totally clueless or do they know a bit about your products or industry? What are their motivations and their interests? What about their personal or professional background? Once you get to know more about your listeners, you’ll be able to craft a presentation message that will resonate with them.

·      Where are you going to present?

Knowing where you’re going to present will help you design your slides. For instance, you’ll design your presentation slides differently if you were speaking in front of a small group in a café versus a large crowd in an auditorium. You’ll also design it differently if you’re making a slideshow for a kiosk at a conference, or if you’re doing a webinar presentation.

If you’re presenting in a large auditorium, then you need to make sure your content is going to be legible even at the very back of the room. If you’re presenting in a small group, say 10-12 people, then medium-sized fonts may be acceptable. For kiosk slideshows, you may need to add some music, and have it run in a loop. For webinars, you may need to insert some space to write a few important notes during the presentation.

So, you see, a one-size fits-all approach doesn’t work in presentations. Always find out where you’re going to present, so you can design your slides accordingly.

·      How long is your presentation going to be?

You’ll most likely have to prepare a lot more slides if you need to give a 2-hour presentation than if you only have 10 short minutes. With a generous time slot, you can go into detail, and maybe even dedicate a single slide for each point. However, for a relatively shorter time slot, you may only have enough time to go through the general points.

On average though, a single slide usually translates to one or two minutes. So, for a 10-minute presentation, you may need to prepare 5-10 slides. It’s important to make sure, however, that you don’t cram far too much information on each slide.

Timing is important in presentations. Always take the time to practice your speech while going through the slides. Ensure everything is finished within the allotted time.

Part II: The Content Planning Checklist (The Outline)

Element 3 of excellent sales pitch: have a presentation sequence ready

Now that you’ve ticked all items in the planning overview checklist, it’s time to go into the next part. Below are the items you should include in your checklist:

·      Research your topic

Whether you already know your presentation topic or not, it’s still useful to do some actual research on the topic. You want to make sure all relevant points are covered. Missing a single point may spell the difference between convincing people to take action or ignoring your call to action altogether.

If you don’t know anything about your topic, then it becomes even more important that you know everything there is to know about it. If you don’t, then you can potentially end up embarrassing yourself in front of your audience!

Think about it: how can you present confidently if you know you haven’t done your homework at all? As a presenter, you want to come across as someone who knows what they’re talking about.

People expect you to know the topic and educate them on it. They’re not there to watch you mumble and fidget nervously on stage. Stage fright is not unheard of in rookie presenters. But you’d be amplifying your nervousness if you don’t do your research!

·      Outline the main points for discussion

In Part I of the checklist, you’ve learned how long your presentation is going to be. This will help you figure out how many points you should include in your discussion. For short presentations, you may only have enough time to go over the main points. But if you have enough time, then you can do a more in-depth discussion.

By now, you should also already know your audience’s level of knowledge about your topic. If they have no idea about your topic, then you may need to give a basic overview. If presenting to a panel of experts, you can probably skip the basics and head straight to your main points.

No matter how many points you include in your discussion, always remember that it should provide value to your audience. Are they learning anything from your presentation? Are your discussion points going to help you achieve your SMART objective?

Lastly, it’s also important to organize your ideas and provide a logical structure for your presentation. It’s easy for people to get confused if you jump from one point to another, seemingly unrelated point. You can use good old-fashioned bullet points to write your outline and check if the ideas flow smoothly. Alternatively, you can also use a mind-mapping tool like MindMup to visualize your ideas.

·      Plan your introduction

Some may say planning the intro after working on the main body is counterproductive. I personally beg to disagree. The introduction is meant to preface what’s to come in the main body of the presentation. It will therefore be easier to craft an intro once the main talking points are identified.

So, how do you go about planning the introduction?

First, you need to figure out your hook. A hook basically grabs your audience’s attention, like, well, a fish hook.

your intro hook will help you capture people's attention
Hook your audience with a powerful introduction (Image source)

It could be a quote, a story, a rhetorical or hypothetical question, a funny reference to a movie or current event, a personal reference, etc. Whatever your hook may be, it has to be appropriate and something that your audience can relate to.

For example, if you know your audience loves a specific show on Netflix, then you can probably use the show’s tagline as an intro. Think of something that will be relevant to both your topic and your audience, and I guarantee people will love you!

So, by now, you’ll have your audience’s attention. The next thing you need to include in your introduction is to give them a quick summary of what they’re going to learn in your presentation.

This is why it’s better to plan the intro after you’ve prepared the main body – you don’t need to overthink the details. You just need to go back to your main body outline and take your intro summary there!

Lastly, don’t forget mention in your introduction why they should pay attention to your presentation. Tell them what’s in it for them and how they’ll benefit. This way, they’ll continue to listen and give you the time of day.

·      Plan your conclusion

Your conclusion shouldn’t just consist of saying ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye.’ It’s your last chance to make an impression on your audience (if you haven’t already!), so use your few remaining minutes wisely.

An effective conclusion should tie in nicely with your introduction. Give a quick recap of what they’ve just learned and what they should do next. And just like the hook in the introduction, your conclusion should also be something that they won’t easily forget.

Don’t forget to emphasize your call to action, too. It will push your listeners to take action right away – not tomorrow or the day after. Every day that goes by, the lower the probability people will still take action. So, have a system in place where you can follow up and remind people that they’ve yet to take action.

Depending on the nature of your presentation, you can conclude with a parting quote, a suggested solution to the problem, an advice, a question, or a challenge. Whatever your preference is, make sure it will help you achieve your SMART goal.

Part III: Slide Design Checklist

So, you’re done writing your presentation outline. Now here comes the fun part in our presentation planning checklist – designing your slides. Whether you’re a designer by nature or not, you should design your slides according to the checklist below.

·      Are your slides easy on the eyes?

free PowerPoint templates in May 2019 - SWOT overview slide #1 included in Playful SWOT Powerful Template pack
An example slide that’s easy on the eyes

There are many factors that come into play for a slide to be considered ‘easy’ on the eyes. Here are some of the top factors that can contribute to your visual aid’s attractiveness:

Plenty of white space

Nobody wants to read slides that are packed to the brim with content. People wouldn’t even know where to begin to look! Busy-looking slides are a thing of the past. Use white space to subtly direct people’s eyes to where you want them to look. Not only does white space improve readability, it also lends an air of sophistication to your slides!

Less text

Don’t copy and paste your entire speech into your slides. It just screams incompetence. Plus, it will lead to the undesirable effect of people reading your slides. This is not something you want them to do. Why? Because they’ll stop listening to you. The thing is you want people to listen to your speech. They’re not going to do that if your speech is readily available for them to read.

Having a lot of text on the slides will also tempt you into reading the slides yourself. Don’t you just hate presenters who do that? It’s actually quite a bit insulting when presenters read their slides. It makes people feel like they don’t know how to read! Unless you’re speaking to a room full of people who don’t actually know how to read, then there’s really no reason for you to put your entire speech on your slides and read off them!

More graphics

The right graphics can do wonders for your presentation. Graphics can include photos, graphs, diagrams, icons, maps, and other visual elements. Instead of using a couple of sentences to describe something, a single graphic can do the job. As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words.

Graphics are also easier on the eyes. Icons, in particular, help save space on your slides. The right picture can also speak to people’s emotions and drive them to take action. For example, if you’re trying to raise funds for charity, you can use heartstring-tugging images of the fund’s recipients.

Using the right colors

Picking the right colors is important because it affects how your audience perceives your presentation. Even if you’re stuck using a corporate color palette, it’s still important to know how to use those colors and create the desired visual effect.

Keep in mind there are millions of colors to choose from. But it doesn’t mean you need to use all of them. Keeping it simple is always a good idea, unless of course, you’ve got Picasso-level design skills!

Consider the typography

In a nutshell, typography is choosing visually-attractive fonts for your presentation. This means no Comic Sans, Arial, or Times New Roman. Even Calibri, the default PowerPoint font, should be avoided because this font has been (over) used in countless presentations!

The fonts you use may seem inconsequential, but it does have an effect on how people perceive you and your message. A handwritten font like Bradley Hand or Papyrus looks childish and would be a big no-no in a business presentation.

Now, the thing with using new fonts in presentations is that it may not be available on other computers. So, if you’ll be using another device to run your presentation file, then it’s a good idea to embed the fonts beforehand.

·      Do they help emphasize your key points?

A beautiful-looking presentation means nothing if your slides don’t help emphasize your message’s key points. It’s like talking to someone really attractive, but isn’t very smart.

Your slides are literally your presentation’s visual aid. They need to be designed in such a way that people will pay attention to – and remember – what’s on the slide. It can be a single word or a single graphic, if it effectively emphasizes your point, then that’s great.

One technique you can use to emphasize your key points is to use some animation. You can apply an entrance effect, an emphasis effect, or an exit effect on a few choice elements. Just make sure you don’t overdo it as too much animation can make people feel queasy.

·      Does your design represent your brand well?

You’re not limited to adding your logo at the bottom of your slides. You should also use your brand colors throughout your presentation. If you don’t have a brand palette yet, pick out the colors from your website or social media pages. Use a color picker tool if you need to.

Your presentation slides should convey the kind of image you want to convey to your audience. Whether you want to be perceived as a fun or serious brand, make sure your slides support your branding efforts.

Branding fosters a sense of familiarity and trust. When used correctly, it can do wonders for your business.

Not up to the slide design task?

Designing slides is hard work, especially if you don’t have much experience to begin with. Here are a couple of pro tips you may want to consider:

Pro Tip #1: Use PowerPoint templates

Templates are a presenter’s best friend. They can save you countless hours in designing slides. There are a lot of items included in a presentation planning checklist – slide design is just one part of it.

If you don’t want to waste time designing slides from scratch, then consider using PowerPoint templates. You can choose from hundreds of professionally-designed, free PowerPoint templates on the 24Slides.com Template Hub.

Here’s a sample template you can download for free:

HR Presentation Slide Templates from 24slides.com

Pro Tip #2: Hire a presentation design company

While templates can indeed save you time, they can only do so much. At the end of the day, you still need to edit the templates and make sure your brand is represented well enough. This is where hiring a professional presentation design company like 24Slides come in handy.  Our fix up service starts at only $7 per slide – this already includes bringing your slides in line with your corporate template and/or branding requirements!

Part IV: Presentation Day Checklist

Finally getting on stage and delivering your presentation in front of an audience

With slide design out of the way, you can now focus on preparing for the actual presentation. Here are the tasks included in this checklist:

·      Are you wearing appropriate attire?

Dressing professionally is a must when giving a presentation. You may think people are there to listen to your message, not critique your attire. But whether you like it or not, people will judge your looks.

So, have your outfit prepared well in advance. Wear something comfortable and appropriate; if speaking at a conference, you may want to ask organizers if they have a dress code. Whatever your outfit may be, make sure it’s clean and ironed out, if necessary.

·      Is everything working?

Even if there’s a technical team assisting you with your presentation, it’s still a good idea to make sure everything is working. You don’t want to run into technical difficulties when its presentation time!

Can you open the presentation file? Does it look exactly like you’ve designed it to look? Is the sound system working? What about the projector?

Always go through everything and pretend you’re speaking in front of a live audience. This way you can spot if anything’s amiss which can potentially mess up your presentation.

·      Are you ready to deliver your presentation?

By this time, you should already have practiced your speech a few times. You don’t need to memorize your speech, but you should know the flow. What comes next after point 1? After point 2? And so on. Use your slides to help you remember your speech.

In addition to preparing your speech, you should also practice your movements. Body language is an important aspect of presentations. You can be saying one thing, and your body may say another.

If you want people to believe you are sincere about your message, then your body language better be saying the same thing. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with your audience, use hand gestures to emphasize key points, and most importantly, be relaxed.

Final Words

Your success depends on how well you follow this presentation planning checklist. I know there are a lot of things to consider, so please feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it every time you prepare for a presentation.

You might also find this interesting: How to write a speech: using words wisely in a presentation