Once you’ve edited down your original brainstormed content into just the essential pieces that support your “big idea,” you’re going to cluster it by topic and then turn the topics into discrete messages.

Grab a fresh piece of paper or a stack of sticky notes and write out the three or so major topics that support the big idea and spread them out, giving them breathing room. The important points should be top-of-mind after all the research you’ve done, but if you’re struggling to limit them to five, it might take a bit of mental negotiation to murder another darling or two.

Each topic should overlap as little as possible. Make sure that nothing relevant to your big idea has been overlooked. There’s a thinking process commonly used at McKinsey, a global management and consulting firm, called MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive):

Mutually Exclusive: Each idea should be mutually exclusive and not overlap with the others; otherwise you will confuse the audience. (“Hey, haven’t we talked about the acquisition already?”)

Collectively Exhaustive: Don’t leave anything out. If you plan to talk about your competitors, you should not mysteriously leave one out. The audience expects you to be complete.

Once you’ve nailed down the key topics, list three to five supporting ideas around each. To the right is an example from a presentation announcing an acquisition that would be delivered at an employee meeting.

key topics of a presentation

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