Putting together a new presentation for a conference/meeting can be stressful. What do you say? How do you say it? How do you structure it? What’s first? What’s last? How do I pull it all together?

I used to build my presentations first and then talk them out second. I’d make an outline or create some slides to get started. I’d try to think logically about how to begin, how to fill the middle, and how to end. Then once I had all the slides done I’d talk through them for the first time. I usually wasn’t happy with the outcome. I’d over-think and under-deliver. This process churned out clinical, sterile presentations. Yuck.

Last year I tried something different. I just started talking (out loud, to myself) about something I was passionate about. Maybe I’d look at a screen from Highrise and just talk about it. Why did we do that? Why did we make this decision? Or maybe I’d just stat ranting about my aversion to functional specs or meetings. Or maybe I’d just go off about collaboration and productivity. Or maybe I’d gush on about VC investments or the state of small business software.

Whatever it was, I’d just talk first and write second. I found that going off on an unstructured rant would expose all sorts of fresh ideas. In 30 minutes I could churn out four or five solid directions instead of spending 30 minutes outlining just one.

I also found that the ideas developed more naturally this way. I made better points and the persuasion was more powerful. Talking without a plan mined thoughts I didn’t know I had.

I encourage you to give this technique a try sometime. It works really well for me. I hope it helps you.