Talkie Talkie

Everyone who does talks regularly has their own approach to building up the necessary content and flow. Dave Bouwman builds his talks up from post-it notes. A nice approach.

For brand new topics, I take a long walk, a couple hours or more around Beacon Hill Park, and roll ideas about – I carry a notepad so I can jot them down and then forget them again, keeping my brain loose. That first couple hours of walking hopefully yields the kernel of the talk and a a handful of interesting ideas – perhaps a dozen lines of text. Then I sit on the couch with a text editor and write the presentation like an essay. Outline in high level. Detail things, move those bits around, then actually write the talk, like an article, fully written out. When I get to around 5000 words I know I have about hour of material. I put ideas for graphics and slides in-lined in the text with «<»> characters. Once I’m happy with the story, I sit down in a separate session and build the actual slide deck. Google Images is a pretty useful source of pictures for almost any topic.

It’s an absurdly time-consuming process, but for keynotes and other instances where I’m monopolizing the attention of hundreds of people at a time, it’s a fair bargain. They are giving me their time en masse, they deserve a polished product – spend 5 minutes saying “um” or “ahhh” in front of 400 people, you’ve just wasted 33 hours of aggregate time.