• jzitek@harborcapitalgroupinc.com
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How To Start Preparing Your Story


Anyone who has sat through a presentation knows what a data dump is. The presenter goes on an on in minute detail until you want to cry. During the presentation is not the time to use the data dump, but all this data is essential in preparing to tell your story.

Begin with a data dump in a brainstorming session

Jerry Weissman, the author of “Presenting To Win,” has better use for this data. Instead of using it in your presentation, set up a brainstorming session, and do your data dump there.

Preparation for your story begins with the data dump, and the way you arrive at the data dump is through a brainstorming session. Brainstorming is a process of free association, creativity, randomness, openness. It helps you consider all the information you think should be in the presentation without consideration of it being logical or valid. 

Logic comes later when you sort, select, and eliminate data into a form that flows logically to help you get the audience from A to B.

 Here are the good news and the bad news about getting the information we need. The right part of our brain thinks creatively, and the left part of our brain thinks analytically.  Business people are mostly left brain or logical thinkers. So they want to apply logic immediately. But in brainstorming, we want the free flow of creative thinking, so we can get all the information needed to tell our story. We will sort the data out later.

 Another point. The right side of the creative side of our brain controls language. The left side controls our written communication. So the brainstorming session has to be verbal because we are looking for creativity. Creating a presentation is a creative task.

How to manage the brainstorming session

Start with a blank whiteboard and draw frame. The frame is a concept developed by Jerry Weissman. On the outside of the frame, identify the outer limits of the brainstorming session.: 

  • Point B. The objective of the presentation or the Call To Action
  • The audience, Their knowledge level and what they need to know to understand, believe, or act on what you will tell them
  • Benefits. All the audience benefits pertinent to the product or service 
  • External Factors. This term refers to is information that could be positive or negative such as faster-growing market or a new competitor 
  •  Presentation Setting. Who is presenting, when, before or after who, where, audio-visuals available, etc.

Now you are ready for the brainstorming session itself. 

The Brainstorming Session

On the whiteboard, draw the Frame described above. You can use colored markers for different groups of main points and different levels of ideas. The only rule is that every thought is acceptable at the time given.  The idea of the brainstorming session is to identify significant or parent ideas and as many ideas as possible. One person’s “bad idea” may trigger a good idea from someone else. 

Ideas should be free-flowing without structure and be whatever comes to mind. When a significant idea is expressed, write it on the whiteboard and circle it. When supporting ideas are given, also put them on the whiteboard and draw a circle around them. Then connect each one io the major idea. Going through the brainstorming process, you will see a panoramic view of the entire presentation.

When you finally run out of ideas, you can begin to use your brain’s logical side to organize, delete, rearrange, and add data. The next step is to put this data into a structure.

Begin clustering the data into a viable structure

Clustering is how you get from the data dump to a structure for the presentation. Clusters are the major parent ideas. Move the parents and data around if needed. However, it would be best if you reduced these parent ideas down to four or five clusters. Then evaluate and prioritize the data attached to each cluster. These four or five significant clusters and their supporting data form the basis for your presentation. Next, you want to think about the organization and the flow of this information for your presentation.


You will be more than happy