Most things we get taught are presented in a step-by-step sequence: history lessons starts with the stone age, kids need to play a boring flute before being allowed their guitar, presentation design goes from thinking about your audience, key messages, flow, charts...

As I am trying to refresh the coding knowledge that is still left from my 1990s computer science degree I now see how this approach totally does not work for me.

  • Most concepts are not step by step, sequential. You need to increase your knowledge of all the steps involved gradually, rather than mastering step 1 100% before going on to step 2
  • Brains get bored, and switching from skill training effort to another is a great way to expand your attention span.

Here are ways I sometimes dive deep into slide design, even at the beginning of a presentation:

  • Often there is that one killer slide that you simply know has to be in the deck. Why wait?
  • Nothing better to wake up a bored brain than quickly putting together a beautiful slide master with title pages, separators.
  • "Sweat work" is another way to do something useful when creativity is stuck: plopping in a P&L, creating the team slide, all easy wins
  • Super detailed comparison tables are nerdy slides that often don't make it past the appendix of a presentation, but, they put the entire story of a presentation on one page (yes, I know), and can serve as a great guide line for the story of the entire presentation, or as a check list to see that you have not forgotten anything. Better design that one first.

Hence, I stick to that zig zagging creative process.

PS. Think about this from your presentation's audience perspective as well. The logical, step-by-step, build up might work for a patient computer, not for easily bored humans.

Cover image (of a Tel Aviv traffic jam) Photo by Jens Herrndorff on Unsplash

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