Storyboarding without bullet points!

Looking for a better way to develop really good medical presentations? Tired of sitting down in a “bullet-point coma” and cranking out a bunch of slides that have way too many words? Looking for a better way to get those creative juices flowing? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, this technique is for you!

If you haven’t read any of Garr Reynolds books, I don’t know where you have been. This guy is amazing, and his books have really changed the way I present material. In his books he talks a lot about storyboarding, the process one uses to map out a presentation and develop a story. Garr notes that most of us who develop Power Point presentations (or Keynote for you Mac lovers) sit down with a blank slide template and our material, and we start filling out slides, one a time, bullet point by bullet point, until the presentation has enough slides to bore any audience to death. He warns that if we prepare presentations like this we are doomed to fail, or at the very least, bore people into a coma. Instead, he suggests developing a “storyboard,” an outline on paper. The image below is what a storyboard book looks like. This one happens to be the one Garr Reynolds sells in a package with one of his books. You can easily make your own. This is how it works: you sit down with your pencil and paper (storyboard) and you map out, slide by slide, making notes as you go. You quite literally draw what ideas you have and how you want to tell the story. And, this is way before you sit and create your slides.

I had never used this approach, and I decided to try it out. I was tasked with preparing a keynote presentation for a conference in Cape Town, South Africa. I had a vague idea what I wanted to say, but I didn’t want to sit down and make a bunch of crappy slides. So, instead I took out a book (like the picture above) and started to jot ideas down in the little boxes. One by one, I mapped out a flow to my story. I drew ideas, pictures, wording, etc, but DID NOT draw bullet points. When I finished, I had enough good material to sit and intelligently make some interesting, non-bullet point slides. This approach was much more gratifying, and made the process a lot of fun.

If you have never tried this approach, I recommend giving it a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.


  1. says

    Hi Rob
    I tried Prezi for a big presentation last month – an experiment that went ok.
    It really is like power point on a roller coaster , but I like the way it forces you to think in terms of ideas, grouped concepts – basically you storyboard in the preparation
    My audience were equivocal about Prezi – but the flow of ideas followed a nice, logical, interesting narrative
    So I think I will use it again, even if only to plan and force me to write a better story

  2. says

    Casey, glad you got to try Prezi. I agree with you in the sense that it is kind of like “Power Point on a roller coaster.” Great analogy. BUT…after I gave one or two Prezi presentations I realized that I could minimize the roller coaster effect by the way I laid out my story on the Prezi canvas. Although I don’t think Prezi is the ultimate solution to giving a great talk ( actually, no slides and a good story is the way to really give a talk ), I do think people appreciate something new (especially younger crowds) and exciting. I would consider not using Prezi to audiences of older physicians, unless you plan on handing out antiemetics before you start. Younger crowds usually don’t mind the motion as much. I would stick with Prezi and practice minimizing the roller coaster effect…it can be done. Thanks for your comments.


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