Time to go analog!

In the previous post, I touched on key questions to ask yourself before preparing a talk. This sets the general parameters (audience, length, …). At this point it would be easy to just fire up Powerpoint or Keynote, shuffle through your previous talks, pick, mix and make modifications.

Instead, I suggest you go analog.

This means go through a good old pen and paper approach, getting rid of “attention black hole ” that constitute software like Powerpoint (or the hardware itself since e-mail and so on are probably still running in the back ground). Turn it off and concentrate on the story to be told. More explicitly, I suggest using post-it notes and start planning your talk.

TIPS: One post-it note per slide relating to the idea or result (number(s), table or figure) for this particular slide.

Note that I did not use plural for table or figure. A charged slide is a turn off for the brain. Your audience should be able to catch what’s going on in seconds. Otherwise, you’ve just lost them (in particular in a 8 or 10 minutes presentation), they will either spend their time analyzing your slide and stop listening to you or take their smartphone and look at their e-mails.

TIPS: any figure or table you will show should be very well thought off. The shorter the presentation the more time you should spend on them.

Back to our post-it notes. The great things about post-it as a surrogate for slides (with a one for one match) is that you can use you desk or even wall as your story board. It is easy to change order or simply throw one in the garbage and pick a fresh one.

Once you have iterated your story to the point were you fell confident, your ready to move to the digital world again 😉

Try it a few times and see if your presentations have improve…

Looking for a few great read related to scientific presentations, I suggest going to these previous posts


  1. Hoi Luc, thank you again for recommending my book 🙂

    Another good book in this regard is “presentation zen” by Garr Reynolds. Not only beautiful to read (esp. if you like Japan and Jazz), but it also goes in the same direction. Chapter 3 is titled: “Planning Analog”. It starts with:

    “One of the most important things you can do in the initial stage of preparing for your presentation is to get away from your computer. A fundamental mistake people make is spending almost the entire time thinking about their talk and preparing their content while sitting in front of a computer screen. Before you design your presentation, you need to see the big picture and identify your core messages-or the single core message. This can be difficult unless you create a stillness of mind for yourself, something which is hard to do while puttering around in slideware.
    Right from the start, most people plan their presentations using software tools. In fact, the software makers encourage this, but I don’t recommend it. There’s just something about paper and pen and sketching out rough ideas in the “analog world” in the early stages that seems to lead to more clarity and better, more creative results when we finally get down to representing our ideas digitally. Since you will be making your presentation accompanied by PowerPoint or Keynote, you will be spending plenty of time in front of a computer later. I call preparing the presentation away from the computer “going analog,” as opposed to “going digital ” at the computer.”

    A really good book, I highly recommend it.


    1. Great comment Daniel. Looking at it more closely, I even found a small PDF file from Garr giving pointers in preparing a presentation. Will make an addition to the blog post later on.



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