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From Mind Map to Presentation

From Mind Map to Presentation

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    I’ve got a couple big presentations coming up in the next month. For each of them, I have to start from a very broad topic and then focus in on information that will actually be useful to the people I’m speaking to. It’s something I’ve struggled with: I’ve tried just jumping straight into making a presentation and tossing my thoughts on to slides, but then I’ve got a very disorganized mess. I’ve also tried outlining, and while it seems to work better, I find myself skipping around within the outline quite a bit. Instead, the approach that seems to work the best for me is a simple mind map.

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    Information Organization

    Mind maps seem to particularly make sense for planning presentations because a good presentation does not have to be perfectly linear. If you’re presenting something with a set format, like a business plan or a research project, the format has nothing to do with a timeline — instead, you must make sure that you share specific bits of information that lead you to a particular hypothesis or sales predictions. Such pieces of information can be added to a mind map easily.

    When you don’t have a set format to follow, mind mapping becomes even more useful. I usually have a few concepts I know that I want to talk about when I sit down to plan a presentation. I’ll set these concepts up as offshoots of my main topic and then start adding more information. If I find that, as I add more ideas to my map, one concept no longer fits very well, I can eliminate it entirely or move the information associated with it to other points on my mind map (I use software like bubbl.us to make that part of the process much easier).

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    I often find that just the act of setting down the ideas I already have in mind map form is enough to spark a whole list more, making the first stages of planning a presentation a question of 15 minutes — rather than the hour or so it used to take me.

    From Map to Presentation

    Most of my presentations wind up being in Powerpoint or similar software. I’m not the biggest fan of such an approach, but it works and my audience tends to know exactly what to expect. It’s also pretty simple for me to translate a mind map into a series of slide.

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    Typically, my slides consist of the first layer or two of concepts that branch out from my main topic. I try very hard to limit my presentation to main topics and the images necessary to explain them. Details don’t necessarily make it on to my slides — although I do add them to my notes so that I can speak about them. It is possible to add each detail to your slides, perhaps as a bullet point, but then you’re more likely to wind up reading directly off your slides — a big presentation problem.

    In addition to my slides, I have my notes, which correspond to each slide. I don’t fully write out every thought that I want to share with an audience. Instead, I keep my notes short. I typically have to practice my presentation to make sure that short notes are enough to recall exactly what I want to say. If I have enough time, I like to practice to the point that I won’t even need notes — but that just doesn’t always happen, though this approach has definitely cut down on the overall amount of time I need to plan a presentation.

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    From Scratch Presentations

    There are some situations in which a mind map doesn’t actually help me develop a presentation. If I’m putting together material on a brand new topic, they can be great. But if I’ve already spoken about a particular topic, it’s much faster to take an old presentation and adapt it to a new audience. Reusing the entire presentation doesn’t often work — even small differences in the audiences you’re talking to can necessitate some big changes in your approach to the topic — but I don’t need to start from scratch.

    At most, I might find myself mapping out a new section for an existing section, but even that is rare. I find that as long as the framework is there, I can typically just add material as needed. I’ve actually set out to plan a new presentation on an old subject from scratch, without success — I felt like I was missing some very crucial sections when I compared my new and old presentations.

    Presentation Planning

    I’ve found mind maps to be an ideal option for planning my presentations — but I know many people use other systems. I’ve seen a few people sit down at a computer and put together a Powerpoint with no pre-planning, while others do extensive research and practically write a paper before crafting a presentation. Still others seem to have a vast archive of presentations they’ve done (or ‘borrowed’) that they just adapt each time.

    What approaches work best for you? Can you use the same approach no matter what tpe of presentation you’re doing? I’m interested in learning what techniques really work for you — and if there’s a particular piece or software or a tool that you find useful, I’d love to hear it as well.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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