Learn more about crafting a compelling message by exploring Resonate by Nancy Duarte.

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

key topics in a presentation

The topics you initially generate are usually a single word or a sentence fragment. In the same way that a big idea shouldn’t be a topic, these little ideas need to be transformed into messages as well. Again, a message should be a full sentence that’s emotionally charged. Topics are neutral; messages are charged. Now that you’ve created clusters of ideas around the topics, you’re going to transform the topic into a key message for each cluster.

Each message should feature as much contrast as necessary to effectively communicate the point.

In the acquisition brainstorm, the first acquisition failed. They shouldn’t jump right into discussing the new acquisition (what could be) without acknowledging the first failed acquisition (what is). The message of the new acquisition must include an acknowledgment of what was learned from the previous failings, or the audience will feel like this new acquisition will fail also.

Changing topics into messages ensures that the content supports one big idea and that each message has an emotional charge to it. In the next chapter, you’ll be arranging and structuring these messages.

Here are examples of changing the topics above to messages:

changing topics of a presentation

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