Creating a Storyboard for Your Presentation

Storyboards are often used by visual storytellers. The film and comic strip industries use them often. It’s a natural part of their creative process. But those of us in the presentation world can use them too.

We continue to trend toward more visually dominant mediums. In fact, 85% of businesses now use video as a marketing tool. So presenters have to be thinking less like writers and more like filmmakers. Storyboarding can help us do just that.

Why You Should Create A Storyboard

Before we dive into the process of storyboarding, let’s cover 4 reasons you need one.

1. It gives you direction. We can get where we are going only if we know where we are headed. You might have heard of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s wildly popular book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In it he says that we should “begin with the end in mind.” This advice from Covey is “based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation.” The storyboard is the beginning of taking what is in your mind and starting to build towards your presentation.

2. It establishes a narrative flow. Storyboarding helps you to outline your presentation plot. Those of us who present can fall into the trap of thinking about our presentations as a sequence of slides rather than movements in a story. When we are thinking in terms of slides, we can forget the importance of flow and narrative details.

3. It helps you focus on your visuals. We too often tend to think of presentations as words, when really, they are a form of mixed media. Great presentations make use of graphics and visuals just as much as they make use of words. A storyboard helps you to shift your focus from what you want the audience to hear, to what you want the audience to see.

4. It allows you to edit freely. Have you ever started working on a presentation by creating a slide deck? You just start “composing” in PowerPoint or Keynote, creating one slide after another. That takes considerable time and effort, so it keeps you from being able to edit where you need to. However, a storyboard is made up of quick sketches. Since these are only drafts, it makes it easier to rearrange them or remove them altogether if needed.

How to Create a Storyboard

When it’s time to storyboard, there’s really no wrong way to do it. Some people like to go super low-tech and create sketches/words on post-it notes. They simply create a stack of presentation moments or movements and then arrange them on a desk or table or wall. When I use this process, I like to use a mix of words and pictures. Sometimes I create a sketch of what I’ll show on the screen, but below it I’ll include a word that describes what I want my audience to feel at this stage in the presentation. The image and the emotion helps to guide my script when it comes time to write.

Other people like to create storyboards in apps or programs. Hubspot has put together a great list of storyboarding software that range in price. For beginners coming from the presentation world, I’d suggest Storyboarder which will give you a more classic sketching-type of activity or Canva, which works well for dragging and dropping images into a sequence.

When it’s time to start creating your next big presentation, put the power of storyboarding to work for you. You might find that laying out a visual narrative sequence gives your presentation both the direction and energy it’s been needing.

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