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Four Places to Create Your Presentations & Handouts


You probably made your very first presentation in PowerPoint. And you probably made the last one there too. Why? Because it comes automatically on your computer. When your parents bought you Windows 95, it was there. When your school updated to Windows 98 it was there. When your work thought it was cool being on Windows 2000 it was there. And it’s still there, on the Microsoft Office Cloud. The only way you’re not making your presentation in PowerPoint? You’re making it in Keynote, Apple’s iWork substitute instead. Or you’re smarter than this post and you’ve explored the other three options below at this point and you’re just reading this as a refresher.

There’s nothing morally wrong with using PowerPoint. There are people who will use the other three methods below and still read off their slides, use ugly, un-readable fonts and mumble their words. You’re reading this blog and maybe taking one of my courses so that won’t be you. Still, there are other options and this is one.

Pros: Don’t need to be connected to the internet to write and design it, present it, export it to another format. Also, you can print handouts of your presentation easily, just select the option to print three to a page and you get the little note sections for people to feel in their notes and comments. You can customize your colors, fonts, and pictures. You can even change the size of your slides. Yes, you can make square PowerPoint slides.

Cons: It’s a Microsoft product. If it’s Keynote, it’s harder to customize or be compatible with computers that aren’t Macs. It doesn’t dance. If you don’t save it to your Dropbox or email it to yourself, you can’t dig your presentation out of the cloud.


I love to dance. It takes nothing for me to pull up my 90’s Jamz playlist on Spotify and start doing a two-step. In fact, I’ve pulled it up right now as I’m writing this post.

I say this to tell you that presenting in Prezi feels like dancing. You start with a blank canvas and you can make your slides bounce in and out. You can set up a video. You can zoom in and out of diagrams.

In fact, if your presentation is really just one long illustration and description of a complicated diagram, go with this. You can zoom in and out and help people really understand the flow of your information.

Pros: Great for making complicated diagrams come alive. Also, it lives on the cloud, so no losing it or losing corrections between devices.

Cons: Only connected to the internet, so if where you’re going is not connected to the internet you can’t run the presentation. Or if your internet is slow or your computer’s a little older (like mine), then it could take forever to make the presentation move as fast you need it. Also, no customization of fonts outside of what’s already loaded in the system. Oh and speaking of the system, if you want to keep that presentation private, you have to pay at least $4.99 a month.


Speaking of Canva, it does more than make your Pinterest graphics. It has properly sized presentation and handout (if you are going for an 8.5×11 sheet of paper for the handout). If you’re new to Canva, it’s a website that has pre-loaded templates for pretty much any document or digital image you want to create, for pretty much any media, social or offline.

You can also add any kind of picture, shape or font you want. Mostly for free, but you can keep your presentations private, unlike Prezi. Also, it seems hipper, cooler and it’s cloud-based, so again, no losing your slides.

Pros: Everything I just listed above.

Cons: Still no custom fonts, so if you, your organization or your company have brand guidelines, outside of the logo and your colors, you won’t be getting any of those guidelines into your presentation. Also, everyone has probably used one of the Canva fonts already. Just like the PowerPoint standard fonts, that gets old fast. But at least in PowerPoint, you can use all your custom system fonts.


My preferred presentation maker. I can load my system fonts, do custom graphics and animations in one of the other Adobe Creative Cloud applications and I can make the slides whatever size I want and also make the handout in the same document (then exporting them into separate PDFs).
That might sound more technical than you need, but for me, it means I can do whatever I want, however I want to present my slides.
But that takes lots of work and training. You only have five minutes. You might just need to open up PowerPoint or Canva.
Pros: There’s really nothing you can’t do with the software to make your presentations and handouts awesome.
Cons: It might take you a while though and require more education past just putting together a few slides and showing your colleagues, family or friends your sales goals, your wedding pictures or options for where to go together on your next vacation. Oh and it’s part of Creative Cloud, so I hope your office is ponying up that $55/month for you. Or you’re generatng enough income ot afford that.

So there you go. All the tools you need to get started making your presentation and handout!

I’m Kristen. I do a lot of public speeches, especially about urban planning and development. I also dabble in designing print patterns and there’s an urban planning blog and a communications consultancy in there somewhere. Learn more about me. Follow my PlantoSpeak board on Pinterest and send me public speaking questions on Twitter via the hashtag #PlantoSpeakQ&A. If you’re in the DC area, join the Meetup group! Let me know how these tips are working for you, by dropping me a line or commenting below. 

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Six Things to Do When You Present Your Work

Six Things to Do When You Present Your Work

Conference season is upon us. Or it’s not a conference you have to present at, you need to get something built and you need city approval to do so. Unlike in years past, you’ve been asked by someone (your office, your vision board, your professor), to make a presentation. Don’t worry, you can do it. I’m going to help you rock this out.

If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve done this at least once or twice. And that’s just the two that have full video recordings.

Again, as I mentioned in a prior post, one of my wishes is for people to learn and understand why and what we do. And since I’ve got a spare moment while I’m attending the TRB Annual Meeting in DC, I’m going to share the top six things that I do that help me as well as others that I’ve learned by making presentations over the last five years (and even beforehand that helped me ace my undergraduate public speaking course).

Before we dig in further, for the sake of this post, I’m addressing presentations of work done for architecture, planning, placemaking, engineering, and policy along with advocacy and research of those works.

Read over the guidelines.

Just like that building or street or vehicle you want to build, you need to build the thing that tells the story by the specs that the manufacturer has given you. If you only have 20 minutes, you only have 20 minutes. If you need a scale model, bring a scale model. Creativity in these things comes after you’ve combed over what’s been asked of you and you know exactly what’s NEEDED in your presentation.

If you don’t have clear guidance or it’s not written out, try calling or emailing the event organizer, the project manager or whoever has released the guidelines. Do remember, that if you’ve been told to not call or email, then you have to go with what’s on the paper and work through that challenge.

Sketch out your main points

If you use the scientific method to present your findings, distil them down to the key points. You can always answer questions during and after your presentation. Especially when you go to public meetings. Conciseness and brevity may actually get you the votes you need for your project to proceed to build out. Again, use your main points to frame your presentation and keep you in line with guidelines such as time, content or materials needed for presentation.

Design it well. Or before you start designing, learn how to design it well

Study best practices in graphic design. Your posters, slide shows, photos, websites and models need to be to scale, at the proper resolution and engaging. Google best practices in graphic design. Google how to install or find free fonts. Use sites like Canva to create infographics and quote boxes to stick into your presentations. Hack Microsoft Word and make it look like you did it in Illustrator or InDesign. In our sector, we are all designers of some kind or at the very least we can be creative and learn new skills. Flex that muscle and put it into your presentations. If you have a good grasp of these tools already, this is your time to show out. You are putting on a show. Make sure your set looks great.

Tell a good story

Now that you have your set pieces ready, it’s time for dialogue. Storytelling is vital for presenters who are trying to convince a neighborhood or government body to build something new or revamp something old. Even if you are just presenting theories and findings, seek to inspire. Storytelling puts your work in the context of the community it will serve. Yes, you may want your project to make money, but the ethical high ground here is to make sure people understand why something needs to be done and why you need to be the one to do it.

Consider a handout

When you go to a performance, you generally get a program or playbill, that helps you remember who’s on stage and what the main plot is. Same with your work. For you, a one page handout with the names of your design team, your research questions, a rendering of your building or street and why you want to build, research or present your work is sufficient to help people remember what you want to do. They can also write their own notes and questions on that handout and start the process of learning what you are doing for themselves.

Answer and don’t fear questions

The point of presentation is education, then action. People cannot take action on what you say or show them if you don’t help them understand what you are saying and displaying. While you may feel interrogated, at the end of the session, your thoughts and maybe even your designs will be better formed. Do honor a sense of decorum and don’t let others completely disrupt or discredit your work, especially if they don’t offer real solutions. Also, know that your project may be growing and be ok with letting people know that this is a phase and you’ll be presenting more later or after another revision.

Finally, even if the project isn’t approved or only one person understands your theory, you still look awesome representing your venture. I have written off certain audiences as not worthy or at least not understanding of what I do. Don’t do that in your presentation. Be the person that people want to hear or work with on this and other projects or research.

Good luck and happy presenting! 

If you want to dig deeper into these six principles, plus learn a seventh that you need to get started, join my free, self-guided Present Your Best Work in Just Six Days email course. You’ll immediately get information about the seventh thing, Don’t Be Scared. Or, you can book me online for an in-person or virtual coaching session.

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Six Things to Do To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

Six Things to Do to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

You do not have to be scared of public speaking. You can overcome your fear of public speaking.

Repeat the line above a few times. Then scroll down and I’ll show you exactly how to do it.

I started by pretending that people were rubber chickens in their underwear. Yes, even for church events such as narrating Easter plays and scripture readings.

Now, I regularly speak to groups as small as six or seven during my live course on improving your public speaking which, you should think about joining if you’re in or can get to the D.C. Metro area.

Or as large as 300 people, people who wouldn’t be listening if we hadn’t fed them or made them get their professional credits. Or been super excited about how to make their cities better. Either way, I’ve made people laugh and learn and not because I fell face first off the stage or puked on top of the conference table.

Either way, I’ve made people laugh and not because I fell face first off the stage.

So other than the rubber chickens, here are six ways that I’ve overcome being afraid of speaking in public

Pretend you’re having a one-on-one conversation. Yes, I’m giving you permission to talk to yourself.

Once I made this audio “show” called the Snooper. I was a huge Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego fan as a kid and I wanted to create my own homage to the mystery genre. My parents also encouraged me to write things and be creative and they just so happened to have one of those handheld tape recorders around and a few extra tapes. Hence, the Snooper.

Now I hated the sound of my natural voice, so I made up a very nasally “mystery detective” voice, that had a lot in common with McGruff the Crime Dog. I made a couple episodes and I’m not even sure those cassette tapes still exist. (The audio recorder does and it still works!)

Speaking of audio recorders, your phone has one. Get it out, talk to it, and yes, talk to yourself. Play back the sound of your voice, so you know what you really sound like.

(This has helped me determine that I don’t sound as Southern in my head as I do in real life).

Do note that this is hard and I still struggle with this, but knowing what I sound like takes one of the big fears out of the way and helps me to start getting better at controlling my voice and making better speeches.

Talk to yourself out loud facing a full body mirror.

It can be just as hard, if not harder, to look at yourself than it is to listen to yourself.

I am better with this one, in fact, I’ve probably always been a bit vain. My parents had a

My parents had a full-length mirror at the end of the hall or our house, between our two bedrooms. I feel like I crawled out of my crib for the first time, shuffled out of the door, turned to the left and boom, my face! My body! It feels so smooth! And it seems to be touching me back! Awesome!

However, I have worn glasses from the age of 4.5 and this was in the era before they were cool. Literally, the new frames I picked out have been giving me flashbacks of elementary school, yet I get so many compliments on them.

I say this to say that how you perceive your body and how others perceive it, is not the same. Plus, when it comes to speaking, you want to know when you are doing weird things with your hands, feet and even your eyes, ears and nose (S/O to my nose and ear wigglers out there).

While I can wiggle my nostrils, I can’t wiggle my ears. What I can do is spin the hand I’m not using to hold my speaking notes in a really weird, motorboaty type way. I only learned this because in my undergraduate public speaking class (which I needed to pass to graduate, no pressure, right), we videotaped (with an actual video recorder and on VHS tapes), our speeches. Speech one was the propellor speech. Watching that and getting that B propelled me to look at myself talking more, talk more and ace the remaining four of my speeches and get control of my hands.

I think you can too.

Practice your speech the same way.

This is not to become a robot when you recite your speech. This is to remind yourself that you know what you are talking about and that you know what you are doing. As you continue to master the craft of public speaking, you will begin to master the art of being able to change your speech on a dime based on time constraints, your audience or both. However, for now, you just need to know you can recite something you prepared, in a coherent, interesting, informative and hopefully funny and entertaining way.

So get to reciting! Or do a TED talk, because you’ll be more than ready to do a speech without notes.

Focus on the back of the room, and pick a few different people, with whom you will make eye contact.

This is not a staring contest. You do not want to make your audience nervous, but you yourself don’t need to look or stay nervous. Use the back wall or the wall behind the person you are speaking to stare at as you get your speech started, Once you get a few sentences in, think back to that conversation you had with yourself a few tips ago and start having it, only this time you’re talking to a few other people in the room. It’s also ok, especially when the people you are talking about are in the room and the speech you are making compliments them (or roasts, if that’s what they expect), to look directly at them and have the conversation with you.

I did this at my dad’s funeral. I gave a mini-eulogy and I mentioned my mom, our family and several of his co-workers. If those people were also in the room, I looked at them and acknowledged them with eye contact. Those parts of the address felt like a conversation and less like me barking out all the ways my dad is awesome and how all of us are going to miss him.

Which he was and we do.

Breathe, eat and drink normally. If you don’t do these things normally, consider doing them on the day of your speech.

Eating and drinking that is. If you’re not breathing, you’re probably where my dad is right now.

That same day of my dad’s funeral, I’d only eaten a bowl of oatmeal prior to the service and after the service and my speech,  I’d started the process of eating two chicken drumsticks when the migraine monster hit me. Mine always come with the temporary blindness coupled with nausea. While the sensations passed, I was in bed the rest of the day and I still was dealing with lots of family in and out making the noise your head absolutely hates when you’ve got that kind of a headache and nervous system craziness going on.

Had my mom and I thought a bit better, we would have asked our family to make sure I ate a bigger breakfast before going to the church and that I was one of the first people to eat. Actually, I was one of the first people to eat and nobody told me I was supposed to be the first person to eat and I held up the food line. Not for very long, though…

Moral of this story, stuff your face, more than you normally would. Make sure your nostrils are clear and you’re not hyperventilating. Drink plenty of water and lay off other beverages, as they can sometimes induce nausea or make you more anxious or nervous than you already are.

Use index cards, post-it notes or another notebook to help you keep your place.

Ok, I know you’ve been memorizing your speech. However, in many cases, it’s ok to have it in front of you. Or at least have a few index cards or some other method of note-keeping, so you can remember your place. Also, making notes will help when it’s time to make your handout, which by the way is one of six things I suggest when you present your work!

Yay! You’re now ready to stand tall and make that speech!

Let me know how these tips are working for you, by dropping me a line or commenting below. And if you’re ready to dig a bit deeper into speech and presentation making, sign up for my free email course, Six Days to a Better Presentation of Your Work. You’ll get all these steps in a nice PDF poster, that you can hang on your wall for motivation. You’ll also get notes from me when I’m doing other cool things, like live public speaking courses, one-on-one coaching and virtual and in-person happy hours wher you can bring your speeches for critique for your peers.

I’m Kristen. I do a lot of public speeches, especially about urban planning and development. I also dabble in designing print patterns and there’s an urban planning blog and a communications consultancy in there somewhere. Learn more about me. Follow my PlantoSpeak board on Pinterest and send me public speaking questions on Twitter via the hashtag #PlantoSpeakQ&A.

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