As with all things in life, the quality of the preparation affects the final outcome. This is certainly true when it comes to planning and preparing a presentation.
I have experimented with a number of methods over the years, but I do believe that the simplest are usually the best.
Over a period of time, think all round the subject and note down on a large sheet of paper or indeed several sheets, everything that comes into your head about the subject of your presentation. This is rather like a personal brain storming session and should be done roughly, in the order in which the thoughts occur - do not attempt to write a speech at this stage.
The Central Theme
This second method requires you to decide on the exact message you want to get across and writing it down in one simple sentence. Then you think all around the sentence, scribbling down the ideas as they come to you - this method is almost identical to 'mind-mapping.
Before selecting or rejecting any idea, it is important to decide:
• Who are my audience?
• How much do they know already?
• How much time will I be allowed?
Having taken account of the answers to those three key questions, it should be possible to answer one further one:
• What do I want to say?
This is the stage at which you can decide your headings and sub-headings and put them into a logical order. Your structure then begins to take shape. Essentially, you go back to the notes you made during the 'ideas' stage and select which ones you wish to use and then put them in the right order.
Remember, you probably will not have time to tell your audience all you know about your subject - after all, this is not an 'information dump'. Use only what is relevant and what can be dealt with in the time at your disposal - this may involve a ruthless reduction exercise.
It is suggested that, if possible, you should leave the speech, once written, for 24 hours. Then re-read and revise - removing any jargon or unnecessarily flowery phases or faulty reasoning.
The actual notes that you speak from can be the final draft of the speech, but this will normally cause you to read most, or all, of the presentation and the audience will find this dull.
It is much better, therefore, to read the final draft and put it to one side. Then, without referring to it, write short, key-word notes or, if you are very experienced, headings only, on to numbered postcards (numbering your cards will prove to be an invaluable exercise in the unlikely event you drop them half way through your presentation!).
You can now look again at the final draft to check that you have included all the major ideas on the cards. But be careful, the chances are that, if you forgot that idea when making out the cards, you will forget it when you make the presentation...
Unless you are a very good actor with a phenomenal memory, do not dispense with notes by memorizing a speech 'parrot-fashion'. Unless your audience is made up of ornithologists, they do not want to listen to a parrot!!
Also, it is easy to lose your way when giving a memorized presentation and easier still to lose an audience.
PS: If you are serious about improving your presentation skills, you will find a number of really helpful articles here