Presentation storyboard – tell them a story!

Whenever you make a presentation, you are telling a story to the audience. It is like showing your audience a movie with you as the narrator. Your story takes the following format:

  1. The setting of the story
  2. The main characters in the story
  3. The current situation the main characters are in (point A)
  4. The place where the main characters want to go (point B)
  5. How they can go from point A to point B (with your help)

These are the first 5 slides of any PowerPoint presentation.

Here is an example:

Let’s say you are making a presentation to the City of San Francisco to build another Golden Gate bridge. You want the City to hire you as the general contractor. Your first five slide would look like the following:

  1. Increasing traffic and population growth in the Bay area mandate a second bridge
  2. The City of San Francisco is responsible for choosing the right contractor
  3. The City has limited time and budget to build the bridge 
  4. It is critical that the bridge be built on time and within budget
  5. We are the contractor who can help the City achieve its goals

You then go on to show why you are the right contractor and how you plan to build the bridge on time and within budget. Use as many slides as you need to make the case but always limit each slide to ONE idea with a photo. No bullet points! Remember that slides are free. There are no limits to how many slides you can use. You do not have to pay Microsoft for any extra slides. So there is no reason for you to cram ten ideas onto a single slide.  The minute you show a slide with ten bullet points, your audience (your future clients) will focus its attention on reading these bullet points and not pay attention to you.

You show them photos of bridges you have built in the past. You show them photos of your team members. Do not cram the team members’ resumes into one single slides! Highlight major achievement in your slides – one point per slide. You are the narrator of your movie “Why the City should hire you”. Tell them a story.

If you have engineering details on how to build a bridge in a short time, show them pictures on slides. If there are complicated engineering equations or formulas involved, put them in a separate handout and speak to them during the presentation.

Remember the NASA Columbia space shuttle disaster story – you cannot reduce complicated technical details into a single slide with multiple bullet points. It will not work. 

One more point: There are no hard and fast rules on how much time you should spend on each slide. The only limitation you have is the time alloted to your entire presentation. So take as much time as you need to narrate each slide depending on the point you are making on that slide. You may spend 20 seconds on some slides and a full minute on others. It all depends on the content. So as long as you stay within your total time allotment, you are free to structure your presentation.

10 responses to “Presentation storyboard – tell them a story!

  1. Norman, Good presentations are so rare, I’m very glad someone is thinking about how to make them better. I’ll keep reading,

    Nancy King

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  3. Hi Norman,

    Great post. I’ve seen too many presentations exactly like the ones that you describe. It’s quite infuriating to sit through them.

    I like the visual reminder that you give: “you are the narrator of your movie” Nice one.



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  5. Great idea, but will this work over the long run?

  6. Why would it not work over the long run?

  7. Excellent site, keep up the good work

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