Preparing for a Big Presentation: Determine the Key Topics to Be Covered

Preparing for a Big Presentation:  Determine the Key Topics to Be Covered
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Preparing for a big presentation on your project is a critical and often daunting task.  Initially, you may ask yourself, “Where do I begin?” From my experience, the tried and true approach of building an outline really is helpful to kick off the process.  However, the key to doing that right is to review that outline with your key stakeholders before you proceed further. It’s important to know that your upper management, your team, and your customer have vetted your outline of topics to be covered.  When you do that, you’ll have an initial boost in confidence that you’re on the right track

This is the first of a series of four articles on “Preparing for a Big Presentation”, where we explore critical aspects of preparing for a big presentation – one where you show your command of the project from a stakeholder perspective, your team’s capabilities and readiness to deliver, and your organizational and communication skills.  This article, Part 1 in the series, “Determine the Key Topics to Be Covered”, looks at the first steps of scoping the presentation to determine the primary topical areas to be covered. Part 2, “Involve Stakeholders as Early as Possible,” looks at the importance of gathering input from all stakeholder groups early in the preparation process.  Part 3, “Allow Plenty of Time to Prepare Slides,” gets into the nuts and bolts of building the slides of information to be presented. Finally, Part 4, “Rehearse and Build Flow and Confidence”, gets you ready for the physical audience-facing aspect of the presentation to ensure it flows smoothly for you and clearly for them.  

It may seem simple, but choosing the topics to cover in your big presentation is not only critical, but is probably more involved than you may think at the outset.  Here’s why:


  1. You need to seek input from the key customer – You never know until you ask, and you don’t want to be blindsided but missing an area they wanted to hear about.  In addition, you don’t want to surprise them with anything unexpected, either.
  2. Seek input from your upper management – Make sure everything is covered to their satisfaction.  There may be some contract issues, strategic concerns, or things that you just may not know about.  Make sure you get it covered.
  3. Ensure input and ownership by your team – This is not just your presentation – but one by the team.  If you ensure common ownership, and service as the ‘integrator’, you will be well on your way to a winning presentation where all share ownership.
  4. Research prior presentations on similar topics – Don’t overlook that others were probably here before you.  Look for the best quality examples from past similar presentations and extract what you need for them. Borrowing good prior content and approaches is a best practice.
  5. Visit any Lessons Learned from prior similar presentations – If you are lucky enough to learn from someone else’s experience, make sure you do it!  You may not know Lessons Learned exist unless you ask, and maybe do some snooping around on your own.

Doing the above may get you digging a little deeper at the outset than you thought was needed, but it’s well worth the effort at this point.

In preparing your initial presentation outline, have you sought all stakeholder input possible?

This Post is Part of the Series: Preparing for a Big Presentation

This series of four articles below explores the approach to building a successful presentation.

  1. Determine the Key Topics to Be Covered
  2. Involve Stakeholders as Early as Possible
  3. Allow Plenty of Time to Prepare Slides
  4. Rehearse and Build Flow and Confidence