A 15 Minute Guide : How to Create a Conference Presentation

I have only recently started speaking at conferences. In the beginning, I was terrified to do so (I even turned down gigs). I had a hard time understanding how my ideas could be turned into presentations that were useful and entertaining.

When I Googled things like “how to make a great presentation” I would find a lot of great advice, but most of it was too high level. Tips on how to improve your body language and slide design were cool, but for more advanced presenters.

What I needed was someone to say: here’s 20 slides, and here’s what you should put on them.

I couldn’t find much, so I created a framework and used it for a few recent talks. It worked great so I figured I’d share it.

The basic philosophy: get your first draft done quickly and improve from there. One of our first talks took us 2 weeks to complete (that experience kept us from speaking more).

The goal of this video is to help you complete your first draft in less than 2 hours.

I didn’t put much polish on this presentation because I wanted to show you what a first draft could look like. My goal is to get you to useful and interesting quickly.

If you are reading this post in a reader or email, you can click here to see the 15:00 video.

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The 16 slides used in this format:

  1. Title slide.
  2. What are we going to learn?
  3. Why you should listen to me.
  4. The specific takeaways you’ll get.
  5. The problem.
  6. The solution.
  7. The before and after.
  8. Before solution story or case study #1.
  9. After solution story or case study #2.
  10. Before solution story or case study #1.
  11. After solution story or case study #2.
  12. Before solution story or case study #3.
  13. After solution story or case study #3.
  14. Mistakes people commonly make implementing the solution (and how to avoid them).
  15. What you can do to take action now.
  16. Question and answer session slide.

Quick tips:

  1. Try to draw your principles from real stories. Use specific data, anecdotes, or screenshots to back up your stories.
  2. Have a decent slide velocity. Shoot for 2 slides a minute minimum.
  3. (In many cases) the more you prepare for your talk, the less words will be on your slides. I find the longer I work my deck, the more the words melt away.
  4. Considering sharing where you messed up and what you realized when doing so. It helps audiences relate to your successes and see their own path to similar results.
  5. Create paths of action at the end of your talk for people who want to do something with your ideas.

Other resources:

Great talks:

I’d love to hear alternative formats, improvements on this one, your presentations, or any other resources you have on the topic!