How to create a presentation for someone else

Nancy Duarte

Written by

Nancy Duarte

The kind folks at interviewed me for an article on their site. They have plenty of great content for communicators. I’ve pasted our article below:

How to create a presentation for your speaker

By Christine Kent

Streamline the process of creating slides for your speaker

Not all of us who work in communications are blessed with a strong design sense—we’re usually good with words, and we leave the design and image creation to the experts. But communications people are eventually called on to create smart, informative and eye-catching slides for an executive presentation—usually under some insanely tight deadline.

For those times when you are pressed into the “slide jockey” role, Nancy Duarte, presentation design maven, offers some advice. Duarte says the task of creating a presentation for someone else is made tougher by the fact that executives believe they are defined by their presentation style.

“Some venues have projection systems the size of buildings, and the presenter realizes that the huge image behind them is an extension of their own character and personality,” Duarte explains. “Some execs try to compensate for their own insecurities by having the slides look extremely attractive, extremely smart or extremely dramatic. The screen is an extension of how we’re perceived.”

To get the look they want, executive speakers often offer the vaguest of suggestions to their poor communications staffers, Duarte says: “They’ll say, ‘Make it sexy. Dress it up a bit. Give it a jazzier look. I want it to sizzle and pop! I want it to look like Apple. Make our logo huge.’ You’ve heard it all, but what they are really saying is, ‘Make me look sexy and jazzy.’”

And of course, no executive wants to be upstaged by some whiz kid whose slides jump off the screen. Duarte calls this “slide envy”: “During internal content reviews, we begin to hear them bemoan that John’s slides are better than mine. Then Mike says that we need to work harder because his slides aren’t as good as Sue’s.”

Before you spin your wheels creating slides, Duarte suggests you figure what kind of speaker you’re dealing with. She uses a modified version of the DiSC assessment profiles, and offers suggestions on how to draft slides that match your speaker’s presentation needs:

Direct and driven:

These kinds of speakers “want results quickly, and they usually don’t care what it takes to get the slides done – they just want them done the way they want them done,” Duarte says. “They prefer slides that are direct and visionary and convey concepts clearly. They’ll overlook details that should be conveyed because they are easily bored with the content.”

Influencing and inspirational:

“This executive will want to look good and be liked,” Duarte explains. “They want to tell stories about people, and they want the audience to have a good time.”

Supportive and steady:

“This executive will want to address every possible need of the audience, which could bog things down in too much information,” says Duarte. “They want to hear case-studies about the impact on humans and behavior.” For this type of speaker, she says, “include some case-studies and ‘reasons to believe.’” This speaker, Duarte warns, “might feel overwhelmed with a presentation that incorporates too many technical features.”

Conscientious and careful:

“These executives will want lots of data points and facts to support their presentation,” Duarte says. “They will approach the project logically and linearly. These presenters tend to want all their slides to be validated with statistics instead of people.”

Here are Duarte’s other ideas for smoothing out the bumps in the slide creation process:

Artists in the room:

If you are using a professional designer to create slides, push to have him or her included in the meeting with the speaker. “So many executives are surrounded by a posse of very capable communicators and organizers, but it’s rare that any of them have a visual gift,” Duarte explains. “When the artist is placed at the bottom of your communication food chain, it hurts you.”

The 20,000-foot view:

“Most executives are big-idea people, and prefer someone else to mind the details,” says Duarte. “When you are first presenting the structure and context to your executive for their review, keep them focused on general flow and ideas. Get buy-in there before tackling the slide content.”

Present the whole picture:

“During exec review, don’t go through presentation linearly in the presentation application – paste it up on the wall so the focus is on the flow of the story,” Duarte suggests. “Use tape, Sharpie markers and bond paper as you move ideas around, or need to create new ones. Build consensus around the big idea before diving into the details.”

Get creative during review:

“Find a review process that resonates with the executive,” says Duarte. “When I visited a client recently, they had just finished working one-on-one with an executive on a critical presentation. They’d taped the faces of key audience members onto the chairs so he could practice eye contact and get comfortable with some of his more hostile critics, and anticipate what they wanted from the presentation. “

Be an active listener:

“There are many times when an executive is clear in their own head, but there are many ways to interpret,” Duarte says. “Don’t only take notes – make sketches of what you see when they are speaking. Show them what you ‘see’ while they speak.”

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