Beginning a presentation: how to create a gorgeous second slide

Written by Matteo Cassese

In a previous post I gave you great tips and advice on how to start your presentation with a powerful first slide. Now that you’re able to craft a great opening slide, you need to know what to do next: your second slide!

Let’s start diving into the second slide with a very common question:

Should your second slide be The Agenda?

I can hear a chorus of angelic voices shouting “nooooooooooo,” can you? The Agenda is not a necessary evil. It’s an evil we can dispense of for many reasons.

First of all, if your talk is so complex that it requires a slide to explain how it flows, maybe you really need to simplify it. Moreover the agenda slide shifts the focus from you… to a bulleted list, setting the mood for a slow, boring, badly delivered presentation.

Doesn’t your audience need an agenda?

By all means they do need an agenda! The best talks are the ones where the audience gets to know the exact structure beforehand. It makes them feel like they’re in control of what’s happening. It calms them down when the presentation is slow and boring and it energizes them when the talk is entertaining. Knowing the structure of a talk makes it easier to follow along. For instance, your audience will think that your first two points were great and eagerly await the third if you tell them it’s coming.

So how do we deliver the agenda to our audience? The answer is easy. We make a pause, look them in the eye and spend 20 to 40 seconds explaining how our talk is structured: we are going to tell 3 stories, we have 2 important themes, we are going to talk about topic x by performing 3 experiments together with the audience.

You don’t need a slide. This is the moment you are making an agreement with your audience about how you are going to spend the next few minutes together. It’s best that you step forward, look at them with an open and honest gaze, and tell them how you’re going to use their time.

This is also a great time to tell your audience how much time you will spend talking and when you want to field questions.

In the meantime your perfectly crafted first slide remains on screen. It’s gorgeous isn’t it? It deserves a little more screen time.

Great. But how about the second slide?

If it’s not the agenda what do you feature there?

There’s not one single answer, but if your conferences are like my conferences I would use the second slide to reinforce a point made before. Let me elaborate on that.

At the beginning of a presentation you share two facts with your audience: who you are and what you’re going to talk about. I suggest that the second slide of your presentation reinforce either of these two points.

If you’re at a conference where there is a skilled M.C. that has clearly talked about your bio and has introduced you properly, you can use the second slide to reinforce the topic you are going to talk about.

One thing you can do is to reveal – if it’s not known – what your relationship is to the topic (you’re the world expert, you became the world expert but you were ignorant about it only 1 year ago, etc.), so as to reinforce both your bio and the theme of your presentation.

You should do this also in a less formal setting if everybody doesn’t know who you are. In this case place a nice picture of yourself in the second slide and give not only a brief bio to your audience (and when I say brief it means you are allowed to use between 10 and 20 words), but also – as above – your relationship with the topic.

Regarding your portrait, when I talk about a nice picture I mean – whenever possible – something shot by a professional. If you can’t afford a photographer, you can shoot great pictures with smartphones nowadays. So go out on a sunny morning wearing something not too flashy (avoid any clothing that has brands on it), choose some neutral background and have a friend take a few head shots of you.

To summarize

No agenda: agendas are for G20 meetings, not for entertaining and informative talks.

Reveal your structure: by verbalizing the structure of your talk your audience becomes your accomplice

Introduce yourself: don’t let your audience discover who you are at the end of the presentation. Tell them beforehand, but be quick.

Reinforce the topic: if everyone knows who you are, reinforce the topic. Answer the question, why am I going to talk about x?

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  1. Ellen Finkelstein

    Great points! Thanks for linking to my post on how to create a timeline (according to Garr). I agree that Agenda slides are usually awful and have another post called “Death to Agenda Slides” at http://www.ellenfinkelstein.com/pptblog/death-to-agenda-slides/. It’s more in line with what you say in your post. However, it does depend on the situation. In-house business meetings often use an agenda–it’s just that they shouldn’t be a list of bullet points — instead, they should energize the group to get the business of the meeting doe.

    • Matteo Cassese

      Hi Ellen, thanks for your comment and thanks for pointing me to your post “Death to Agenda Slides”. Energizing is the most important issue!
      Rather than creating an agenda slide I always suggest to either explain the agenda in an informal way but I also like the timeline you suggest in your post.



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Who is Matteo Cassese?

Hi! I’m a marketing consultant and an enthusiastic entrepreneur with experience working for multinational companies (Warner Bros.), teaching at a university (Link Campus University), and consulting for entertainment companies (Netflix). I’m a scholar of storytelling and have dug deep into screenwriting techniques, mythology, and trans-media narratives. This passion is translated in the simple structure template that you get in all my courses. In my free time I enjoy driving cars (fast).

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