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How to create a TalkMap

Choose and sort your presentation content

A TalkMap is very helpful if you are giving a presentation and unsure what to say or how to say it. On one page you can see all the ideas and you can arrange them as you wish, in whatever sequence works best for your purpose.

I find that the TalkMap is a great way of helping me develop a talk. In this example video you will see how it’s stimulated my thinking to include lots of ideas that probably I wouldn’t have thought about if I’d just made a list or started to prepare PowerPoint slides.

Text version:

Here’s a TalkMap I developed for an example talk to a group of teenagers about having a healthy lifestyle. I had 10 minutes for the talk with another 10 minutes for a Q and A.

You can create a TalkMap on a sheet of paper with a pen or pencil, or you may choose to use an online version – just search for Mind maps

If you’re using paper and pencil, take a blank A4 sheet of paper in landscape view. In the centre of the page, draw an oval, just large enough for a short title.

1st step in creating a TalkMap - drawing a circle

At the top of the page, write 3 things as your reminders:

  • The name of your audience.
  • Your point or the reason you are presenting.
  • And the time you have been given for the presentation.
2nd step in creating a TalkMap

In the oval in the centre, write your title for the presentation.

3rd step in creating a TalkMap

Now draw about 8 ‘legs’ coming out of the oval.

4th step in creating a TalkMap

On each leg, write an idea about your presentation. You can see that I had 10 main ideas for this talk, but you may have more or less, it doesn’t matter.

At this stage don’t edit your thoughts, just put down every idea that comes to you. And in no particular order. You can edit and order later.

You may choose to use different colours for your topics to make them stand out, but my experience is that an ordinary pen or pencil works just fine.

5th Step in creating a TalkMap

Now, develop each idea into its component parts, as many as you can think of. For each one draw an extension of each leg.

If you don’t get them all it doesn’t matter: you can always add them later.

6th step in creating a TalkMap

Here you’re adding any particular points you want to make or stories you want to include. For example, I wanted to include, at this point, the story of my giving up smoking, and how hard that was.

7th step in creating a TalkMap

When you’ve got as many ideas and points you can think of, you can start to choose which elements you’re going to keep.

At this point I would have realised there was far too much material for a 10 minute talk. In that time I can only expect to make about 4 or 5 points at most; there’s no point in cramming everything in, it just won’t work; they won’t get it.

8th step in creating a TalkMap

Now I can identify the order of the points I want to make. Notice that I’m not concerned about the opening or closing at this point: I’ll work on those later.

9th Step in creating a TalkMap

When I’ve done all this, I can transfer my thoughts from the TalkMap into a list. Or you may choose to start to create PowerPoint slides. I tend to use prompt cards to develop my talks, because that’s what I’m used to.

When I use cards I usually use 4 x 6 plain index cards, a good size on which I can write a maximum of about 6 bullet points on each card. I might end up with 10 to 20 cards depending on the length of the talk.

Here’s the whole talk, in list form. And, seeing the whole talk in this format, I can make some choices how I want to present it. For this talk I would choose not to use slides, instead using physical objects to keep the teenagers’ attention, and to really bring it alive.

10th step in creating a TalkMap

Finally, my invitation to you is to have a go. It doesn’t matter what it looks like; it doesn’t have to look pretty, or anything else: it’s just helping you to capture, develop and order your ideas.

And if you need some help or encouragement, get in touch. Or with your successes. We’d love to hear from you…

lady holding a phone to say get in touch for our Online Interview Coaching
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