Creating A Presentation That Flows (Or What Is Your Mississippi)?

Creating a Presentation that Flows (or) What is Your Mississippi?
By Marianne Simon

One of the biggest challenges a speaker faces is what information to share, and how to do that in a way that flows easily and naturally.  If you are like me, there are a hundred things you’d love to talk about, but not all of them may be related.  The problem is, if you are not focused and cohesive in your presentation, you can leave your audience a bit overwhelmed and confused.

So how then, do you glean thru your inventory of stories and teachings to come up with something that will educate and inspire your audience and leave them with a clear understanding of their call to action?

mariannesimon.river drawingConsider using a river as your guide.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that nature is a bountiful source of inspiration and guidance for whatever our challenges might be.  In this case – consider using the image of a river as your guide for developing the structure of your talk.

Take a moment to imagine a river, any river, be it the Mississippi, the Amazon, or the Nile.  Each of them has a main tributary that starts at point A, and ends up at point B.  As it flows downstream, it is fed by numerous smaller tributaries: smaller rivers, streams and creeks, until it eventually reaches the sea.
This same analogy can be used for your presentation.  The main tributary is your overriding message, your objective, your thru line.  And each of the smaller streams is one the various elements of your talk.  The key is that the points all relate to, or support, your objective.

I initially used this process when I was working with one of my favorite clients, the Green Gardens Group.  After we determined the overriding purpose of the workshop, I started brainstorming different modules and techniques I wanted to incorporate.  From there, I began drawing lines from each of the elements to my main purpose, creating a visual representation of what I was imagining.

What happened, without planning, was that I had started sketching what looked like a river and its tributaries.  Not only that, but as I was scribbling and drawing, my sketch was giving me clues.  I realized that in my doodling, I was highlighting important points, circling exciting exercises.  Without intending to, my subconscious was guiding me on the flow of my workshop.

What I love about this method is that it is so simple and so freeing; letting your mind, body and intuition all work at the same time.  Note:  you do NOT have to be an artist.  Just pick up a few blank pieces of paper and a couple of pens or pencils.  Here are the steps:

*What is your thru line, the main tributary?  You must be very clear on your main objective  – it is your guiding light.  Draw a serpentine shape from one side of the page to the other – nice and dark.  Do it again and again to get your hand flowing.

*Start brainstorming – jot down all ideas you had for your speech around your main tributary.  Just write – don’t censor.  Then start connecting your words to your river, using more of those fluid flowing lines.  Pretend you are in first grade, have fun. Allow yourself to play with the lines.  Allow yourself to circle, color, highlight anything that strikes you or excites you.

*Then step back and see what you’ve created.  Notice what your pencil might have revealed, what clues are hidden in the lines.  

*Then it is a process of elimination.  Ask yourself the question – does this teaching support my message?  Does this story support my objective?  If it does, leave it.  If not, cross it out.

You can use this tool again, as you explore different ways to order the material or the timing of your presentation. If you have 20 minutes – that is one stretch of river, if you have 2 days that is a much longer stretch.

We are visual beings and this is such a fluid way to work.  Let this tool help you map out what your mind is telling you and your heart is inspiring you to do.
So, go grab a few pieces of blank paper – a nice thick pencil or pen, get comfortable and then start noodling and doodling to discover where your river will take you.

MarianneSimon.1Marianne is the founder of Speak Your Passion, a company dedicated to helping us reclaim our voices and speaking for those who have none. Her business helps speakers create passionate presentations that inspire action. She works with her clients to step out onto the stage with more confidence and authenticity. With 20 years experience as an actor, director and writer, and 12 years as a landscape designer, she blends her passion for self-expression with a fierce love of nature. For more info, contact her at 310-399-4899 /

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