One could argue that the editing process is more vital to good writing than
the act of writing itself.
Your first draft is a hectic mess of cake batter: a mix of ingredients
covering your hands, clothes and kitchen. Editing is when the batter
a delicious cake.
When it comes to editing
presentation content, say what has to be said in as few words as possible. No jargon or
fluff—just the facts.
You rarely, if ever, reach your writing goals in the first draft. When you
approach editing as a creative process, it can shape your content in
unexpected (and improved) ways.
Hannah Rubin said: "In the same way that sketching isn't drawing and mixing
colors isn't painting, first drafts merely scratch the surface of what it
means to really write. Editing is part of writing-they aren't two separate
processes but, rather, one and the same."
When editing a presentation, work on three core areas:
Making it shorter.
By "shorter," it doesn't mean you should cram all your ideas onto two
slides. Keep each slide visually appealing by reducing the amount of text
Each slide should contain just one idea. If you have 10 beautiful slides
with only one or two words apiece, you will spend the same amount of time
explaining the same amount of concepts, but it will look infinitely more
Having a hard time getting rid of text on each slide? Not ready to "kill
your darlings," as
Stephen King suggests? Try these two challenges:
The "Twitter" challenge:
Twitter allows a maximum of 140 characters per tweet, and people have
become better editors because of it. Slides don't have to be read as
complete sentences (you shouldn't read your slides verbatim anyway), so
take the presenter's version of the Twitter challenge: Use 30
characters or fewer on each slide. For example, instead of saying: "Our
yearly profit report shows that profits have exceeded expectations,"
say, "Profits are up." That's 14 characters, including spaces. It says
what you need it to say, and anything else can be added aloud or shown
with a chart, preferably on the next slide.
My colleagues and I like to consider our presentations a long poem,
each slide representing a new line. One fun technique is
the 5-7-5 formula, that of a haiku. This can be achieved in groups of three
slides, where the first slide has five syllables, the second slide has
seven syllables, and the conclusion has five. Maybe you want to explain
how awesome your marketing department has been in the last year. The
core idea might be: "The marketing department at Sam's Bread has
succeeded in landing 20 new clients this past month." The 5-7-5 would
Marketing has ruled
Twenty new clients
In only a month
Reducing text on each slide is about eliminating filler, run-on sentences
and sometimes even full sentences. Occasionally, all you need is a single
word to guide you along the path of the talk.
2. Making it consistent
Consistency isn't merely about not using the word "cupidity" on one slide
and "bro" on another. It's ensuring your work is structured with a
beginning, middle and end. Main points should be revisited, stories should
be wrapped up by the end, and themes should used throughout and not
Consistency can be achieved by creating an outline before you begin or by
writing down the key concept from each slide after you've finished the
first draft. An outline could look like this:
Slide 1: Title: "Yearly Report"
Slide 2: Thought-provoking question: "Have you seen our numbers?"
Slide 3: Answer: "They're amazing."
Slide 4: Chart to prove how amazing
Keeping an eye on your goal for each slide can prevent important points
from slipping through the cracks or remaining unvisited later. Carefully
examine your presentation's structure from start to finish, like a home
inspector checking for leaks and rodents. Eliminate the rodents, and fix
Grammatically speaking, also ensure that all your verb tenses are
[RELATED: The 2017 Speechwriters Conference features a panel of four former presidential speechwriters. Join us.]
3. Making it powerful
If you wouldn't want to sit through your presentation, neither
will anyone else. Editing for impact sometimes requires that you step back
and let someone else look at your content. It also means that you spend a
little more time revising and refining your final
call to action, ensuring you'll leave the audience with their jaws dropped.
Because this element of editing is more about the "feel" of a presentation
and less about the technical aspects, it's hard to assign strict do's and
don'ts. I try to keep an eye on how all of the main points strengthen the
conclusion and how many relatable storytelling elements I've used. Your
presentation should take the audience on a journey.
As you edit, be sure you aren't leaving out a personal element to your
presentation, no matter what story you have to tell. Take a risk with your
audience's emotions. Share something personal in a presentation that might
not initially seem to fit. So many presentations lack that human touch.
After you've worked through larger editing issues such as consistency,
revisit your work for smaller issues as you finalize the draft. Ask
1. Have I read the entire presentation out loud to check for mistakes?
2. Has anyone else read it?
3. Are my verbs tenses correct?
4. Are the main takeaways clear?
5. Is the text short and to the point on each slide?
6. Is there a logical order to the slides?
7. Do I have a strong conclusion and call to action?
8. Am I repeating anything the audience already knows?
Editing is so much more than crossing the t's and dotting the i's; it's
about refining your creation and improving your own understanding of the
content. When done mindfully, editing can ensure that your audience can
enjoy the delicious double-layer German chocolate cake that is your
A version of this article originally appeared on the