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Create a Mind Map ...

and get your presentation structure off to a flying start

When I have a new presentation to develop, I often create a mind map to help organize my thoughts and get my mind focused on the job in hand. A mind map is a diagram with various topics branching out from a central theme. Each of those topics can then have related sub-topics branching out from them, etc. It is a visual form of brainstorming and your aim is to list and find links between related topics and ideas. It can be a great help in the initial stage in structuring a presentation, particularly if you're finding it difficult to know where to start.

How to create a mind map
One of the most daunting sights when creating a presentation is when you open Microsoft PowerPoint and see a blank slide with the words "Click to add title" staring back at you. Panic! Where do you begin? It can be a little like the presenter’s equivalent of writer’s block. However, there is one simple solution to overcome this problem:

 Don't start with a blank PowerPoint slide!

A great way to start organizing your thoughts and get those creative juices flowing is with a mind map. All you need to create a mind map is a blank sheet of paper (or a whiteboard) and some colored pens.

Start by placing the theme or subject of your presentation in the centre of the paper then draw a rectangular box round it. Now you start to do some brainstorming. Write down some topics that you need to discuss in your presentation. Start with some general main topics to begin with. Draw some colored lines out from the central box and add the main topics to them. Now think of some sub-topics that should be in your presentation and add them to your mind map, linking them to the related main topics. And so on.

Picture of create a mind map

Create a mind map to help organize your thoughts

Most presentations flow in a linear fashion: slide 1, followed by slide 2, then slide 3, etc. With a mind map, your aim is not to link topics in a particular sequence. Your aim is to find relationships between individual topics, and in so doing create a structure by grouping similar ideas. Creating a mind map is a form of visual thinking and can be a great help in overcoming "writer’s block" through the listing and grouping of ideas. It's also a great overview to see if you've missed any vital points. Those main topics (shown in blue circles in the drawing above) will eventually be the main headings when you go on to make an outline.

When you create a mind map, there are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Use a large piece of paper with the long edge toward you in landscape orientation (a whiteboard is also good).

  • Place the main topic or subject in the centre of the paper.

  • Use just one or two "keywords" per linkage line. Don't write sentences: keywords are all that is required.

  • Don't "edit" your thinking at this stage. Put down all ideas without judgment or evaluation. You can prune back items at a later stage.

Don't try to be too perfect or too detailed when you create a mind map. The mind map you create here is not an end in itself. It's just a tool to help you to the next stage of structuring your presentation. No one will see your mind map except you, so be as creative as you like. Focus on getting all your ideas down on paper and grouping related items.

Ready to move on? Great! You're now ready to begin creating an outline. But that's another story...


Return to Structuring a Presentation from Create a Mind Map


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