How to keep to your point when presenting

Frankie Kemp

14 May 2019

Ever started talking about something only to find yourself going completely off track?

For all those who thought the only way to counter this was to write piles of prompt card or pages of lines, there’s a quicker, easier technique to draw up your content and stick to it.

It’s called mind mapping and was popularised by Tony Buzan.

He pimped-up those scrawny spider diagrams that I knew from school and turned them into kaleidoscopic membranes of visual art.

However Mind Maps are not just pretty pictures.

Barry Buzan, Tony’s brother, co-authored the ‘The Mind Map Book’ with him.  He states that mind mapping allowed him to complete his doctorate in under the prescribed 3 years, partly author a book, found and edit an international magazine, take up motorcycling and get married.

Imprinted in my brain is an image of his bride bristling as a Kawasaki, carrying both bride and groom off, rides over her train, PhD papers flapping in Barry’s face while he shouts edits down the phone.

As for Tony, his achievements are exhausting just to read: a prize winning athlete and Olympiad coach, author of 4000 poems, advisor to multi-national organisations and author of over 30 books on learning, creativity and the power of the mind.

What makes mind mapping so compelling is that its proven to boost memory and recall, hence you can dump the script.

Also for those who have been labelled ‘stupid’ or ‘dyslexic’, mind mapping has been the answer in increasing IQ, self-esteem, memory and cognitive ability, the latter often confused with dyslexia.


Why it works

Mind mapping mirrors the way the brain works.  The picture below shows branches in your brain.  These include dendrites and axons which range from a millimetre to – wait for it – a whopping 1.5 metres in length.

That’s quite an extensive piece of wiring in your bonce, mate.

There are absolutely no limits to how many connections the brain can make.  You have an endless capacity for new thoughts and ideas.

As you draw a mind map, you’ll be creating the same types of pathways that your brain naturally creates when you’ve had a new thought.


How Mind Mapping improves your presenting skills

The beauty of this in planning presentation is that:

  1. In 20 minutes you can gather your content, as it’s an extraordinarily effective and enjoyable way of brainstorming.
  2. You’re not tied to notes so you can put them to one side, allowing increased use of gesture and movement to add dynamism.
  3. Verbal expression becomes spontaneous and natural. You’re not going into ‘Presenter Persona’.  You’re just you but ‘turned up’.
  4. You have increased eye contact with the audience.
  5. Expanding and altering key points to suit the audience and situation is a breeze, without risking going off track.

Here’s why mind mapping works better than a script.


The principles

    1. Use association – have the paper landscape as this encourages associative thinking. Portrait will limit you.
    2. Use colours and pictures to save the words – they’re also easier to pick out when you’re nervous or excited.
    3. Buzan, T. and Buzan, B. (2010). The Mind map book. New York, NY: Pearson BBC Active, p.101

      Use hierarchies. So large thick branches to break down your content into 3 main points, then the sub-points in thinner lines.  This is a more synchronous as opposed to linear style of thinking.





In a linear style you’d have this:


Point 1

Point 2

Point 3

(A linear style can be very useful in organising your ideas past the initial mind mapping stage.)

I’ll then tend to place my points on prompt cards, using the 4 x 4 rule: no more than 4 lines with a maximum of 4 lines.  When the adrenalin is pumping through your veins, words are fuzz so we limit how much the eye needs to observe.


If you’re presenting virtually, use 4 words maximum per line and scroll down.



What mind maps looks like in their entirety

Buzan, T. and Buzan, B. (2010). The Mind map book. New York, NY: Pearson BBC Active, p.259.

This coloured mind map is Tony’s own work that he drew up before a presentation he was giving.

The one below is mine that I devised for my 20 minute Product Tank talk on ‘How to Influence when you’ve no Authority’.




I know it’s messy but because it’s so visual, it became rapidly mentally imprinted.  Thus, I was able to keep on track with the talk and dispense with a script.

This was my 2nd mind map on the subject.  The first was messier, then I reorganised some of the ideas, and knocked others out.

Having this in my pocket or bag, meant that I could pull it out to visually imprint it within no time, thereby throwing cue cards to the wind


Your Action

  1. For your next meeting or presentation, take a piece of paper and place it landscape.
  2. Take no longer than 20 minutes, the optimum time for mind mapping, to draw out your ideas.
  3. Have it readily available so you can add any ideas as they crop up.
  4. Note that you’ll be able to have just that one piece of paper at your side to keep you on track as you talk.

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