Do Not Start With The Roof: A How To Blueprint For Your Presentation Content

Living in a blueprint

Imagine you’re going to build a house. You don’t just start building and add more wood as you proceed. Nor do you start with the roof and build from the top down.

You start with a blueprint. You create a detailed and precise plan of what you want your house to be. The blueprint serves as the architecture and engineering design. It’s the guide to building the house.

Blueprint For Developing Presentation Content

It’s the same thing with your presentation. You should start with the end in mind.

1. Start With The Foundation

What are the two or three main things you want your audience to remember from your presentation? Identify these main points first and then build the structure of your presentation around them.

2. Identify Supporting Pillars

Once you know what you want your audience to remember, then add supporting points to those main ideas. These supporting pillars serve as your discussion points and add context.

3. Discuss The Purpose

Start your presentation by listing why it is important to your audience. Identify what’s in it for me (WIIFM) quickly. Our brains are meaning driven. Help your audience understand the meaning of your presentation and why it’s important before giving them the meat.

4. Discuss The Back Story

What led you to decide to present this information? Is there a story you can share? Stories hook people. Once you’ve started your presentation with why it’s important to your audience, share a story that connects to your presentation. If it’s research based, what drove you to look at something differently? The more humanness you can add to your presentation the better.

5. Outline Your Presentation

Create a blueprint of your presentation. First should be the WIIFM. Followed by the story. Then go to the main points, each with its supporting points.

6. Dump The Data

Data and facts don’t persuade people. It’s the emotional connection, the story, the visuals of those data and facts that persuade people. Go light with the data. Give them the highpoints. Tell the audience they can get the data directly online or from your personally. Do not waste valuable presentation time explaining all the details of your research. Explain the results and what’s in it for them.

7. Then Roof Your Presentation

You’ll want to close your presentation by recapping everything you told them. Tell them again why this was important. Repeat the two or three main ideas. Thank them for their time and attention.

8. Add Your Visual Accents

Once you have your content decided, then you’re ready to proceed to your PPT. Only one idea per slide. Keep the text minimal. Use more visuals than you do text. People cannot read and listen at the same time.

Originally written and published for AAO’s industry speaker training.

What tips do you have for presenters who try to cover too much content including the kitchen sink? What resources have you used that help you develop a better presentation?

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  1. Steve Drake says:

    Good stuff Dave!

    While I like the blueprint analogy, a real blue print is “rigid” and “requires multiple approvals” to modify or change.

    A blueprint suggests that that the speaker should not cannot change the presentation “on the fly” which may mean he/she misses a teachable moment that comes up during the presentation.

    Rather than blueprint, using a “coach’s game plan” or “teacher’s lesson plan” might be better … both have the elements of a blueprint but both allow the flexibility to adjust and change to meet what is happening “on the field” or “in the classroom.”

    Love the writing that you and Jeff post!


    1. Jeff Hurt says:


      Good point about blueprints.

      In my opinion, the process for developing the content does not change. It still follows this foundational order. If you don’t focus on the goals of the presentation, your content is weak and all over the place.

      Any speaker can change the content as needed to customize to the situation. For me, steering completely off course of the presentation for a teachable moment must be weighed against the original goals of the presentation.

      Thanks for reading and commenting as always.

  2. Great metaphor, Jeff despite the implied rigidity of a formal blueprint. Maybe you should add step 5A. Develop a metaphor that captures the essence of your presentation. 🙂

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      So true! Love the add a metaphor that describes the meat of your presentation. Thanks for reading and commenting too!

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