Keynote Creation, Part 2: Creating a Presentation Blueprint

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This is part two of my Keynote Creation series focusing on how I put together, rehearse and deliver a Touch the Sky keynote presentation for an upcoming conference.Part one focused on putting together what I call a Presentation Production Schedule. Part two focuses on hammering out the blueprint or outline of the presentation. Please note that my Fishbone Formula applies not only to Keynotes, but to presentations in general. It's my hope that giving you a glimpse into how I approach the creation of my own presentations can help you approach yours with greater focus and confidence.

My presentation skills coaching clients aften describe variations of the following presentation preparation nightmare: They're at work, happily minding their own business, when suddenly their boss walks in. “Joe,” he says, with a toothy smile, ” I just got word that you're going to give a 20 minute presentation at ABC conference in four days. Congratulations, buddy!”

Five days? How in the heck are you going to slap together a presentation in only five days? What about all the OTHER deadlines you have to meet? Not to mention all those emails to reply to, the proposals to get out, your family commitments?

That concern is why I began tinkering around with a process to put together the bones of a presentation quickly and efficiently. And when I say bones, I really mean bones. Because I employ what I call my Fishbone Formula, which is a blueprint I devised that encompasses the basic structural elements of a fish: The spine, bones, flesh, head and tail.

Even under pressure, with very little time to think, act or prepare, you can slap together a presentation using the Fishbone Formula. To do that, here’s what you have to ask yourself:

  • What is my intention/main premise? What am I there to DO? What pain or problem am I there to solve or address? This is the SPINE of your fish. Every other element of the fish must be in support of this spine or it is irrelevant.
  • What are the 3-5 main points I want my audience to remember that are in support of the spine of my presentation? These are the MAIN BONES of the fish.
  • What FLESH can I hang on each of these big bones/points (e.g. data, signature stories; data; video clips; interactive audience exercises; etc.) to make these main bones more sticky/memorable/impactful?
  • How can I grab my audience’s attention from the very start? Will I tell a story that sets up the intention/main premise of my fish/presentation? Will I start with a compelling questions or a statement that makes people sit up and take notice? This is your HOOK.
  • Midway through the head of my fish (around the eyeball), what promise am I going to make to my audience about where I am going to take them and how I am going to address/solve their pain? This is your DECLARATION.
  • How can I end my presentation in a way that helps people remember the gist of the MAIN BONES? This is yourSUMMARY.
  • What can I specifically encourage my audience to think about or DO, so that I end with a bang? This is your CALL TO ACTION (the final flip at the end of tail)

Think of your fishbone as your bare-bones blueprint. Sketch it out on a big piece of paper as quickly as possible, knowing that you are essentially slapping down the building blocks of your first draft. And here's the key to making the Fishbone Formula work for you when you only have a little time to prepare: The more willing you are to quickly CHOOSE AND COMMIT TO these basic elements, the more quickly you can move on to finessing and then rehearsing your presentation. Put another way, the more wishy-washy you are about settling on the elements of your fishbone, the less time you'll have to internalize the presentaiton and deliver it effectively. So make bold choices and commit to them! The less you second-guess those choices, the better.

I followed my own Fishbone Formula and my own advice as I put together the blueprint for my upcoming Touch the Sky keynote. Mind you, I was actually customizing a keynote I'd already written. But that didn't mean I didn't need to blueprint it out using my Fishbone Formula. Figuring out the fishbone allowed me to not only strengthen the structure of my presentation, but to decide what kinds of flesh to add (stories, data, exercises, images, etc.) that would be most impactful with this particular audience.

According to the self-penned Production Schedule I shared with you in Part One of this series, I needed to get my fishbone hammered out by Monday, September 16th. I'm darn sorry to say I didn't make that deadline. But I came close– I was off by a day. The reason for my delay was because I did exactly what I warn my clients not to do: I second-guessed my choices. But because I was determined to adhere as closely as possible to my production schedule (and because I knew I had to report back to you), I only vacillated around the basic choices an extra 24 hours. Having that production deadline (and your cyber-eyeballs on me) really helped keep me on track. And knowing I could look ahead to an entire week of furthering and finessing my presentation helped me feel ok about committing so early its essential bones.

With my fishbone blueprint in place, it's now time to flesh out the first draft of my keynote and begin the process of finessing it. More on that aspect of Keynote Creation in part three of this series!

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