My talk writing process

I enjoyed this article by Val Head where she shares her planning process for talks and presentations. She breaks up her process into four phases: research, outlining, editing, and rehearsing phases. While everyone has a different approach I found her article insightful. If you’re struggling or feel overwhelmed preparing talks, she’s got a few very important tips.

A few quotes from each phase:

Research phase

True to the nature of research, all my talks start by collecting articles, books, videos, and other things that relate to the topic of the talk. At this point in the talk development process, I usually only have a general topic idea instead of a fully fleshed out point-of-view or main message. That means I end up collecting things that might only be tangentially related to the topic and going down some strange topical rabbit holes.

Outlining phase

There’s probably a smarter sounding name for this phase, but for every talk I’ve done, there’s always a point where I step back and think, “Holy crap this is all a giant mess! What am I even doing with all this!?”

Editing phase

This is the point where I start making slides and such based on the outline. I’ll make slides for each point in the outline, take screen recordings of demos or examples, and start piecing things together in order. I tend to think of my talks in sections at this point and, as I create the slides for each section, I’ll try talking through them out loud to see how they flow.

Rehearsing phase

Rehearsing is so important but it can also be very awkward. It seems like everyone has a different strategy for rehearsing talks, which totally makes sense. I have a really hard time rehearsing talks in their entirety when I’m standing in my office talking to the wall or to the dog, so I tend to rehearse in 15 or 30 minute chunks; practicing the first half then taking a break to do some other things and coming back to run through the second half.

The last phase reminded me of a recent training I went through at work. The training is called Powertalk and it highlights training your mind for the talk by moving your body while rehearsing the talk. It was powerful!

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  • September 22, 2018
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