PowerPoint and Running Agendas

By Taylor Lovell, Research Analyst, Utah Valley University

Imagine you and a friend are unloading a box full of tennis balls. Would you like your friend to throw you each ball individually? No, it would be too difficult to collect and organize the balls. Would you like your friend to throw you the whole box at once? Maybe some of you are strong and agile enough, but that box would be difficult to catch. Would you like your friend to throw you cans of balls, containing three or four each? Yes! It would be much easier to catch and organize the cans.

So too it is with presentations. It is much easier for your audience to “catch” the information you are sharing with them if that information is packaged together appropriately. Below I outline one way to indicate to your audience when you are “throwing” them a new package of information: the running agenda. I also give you an example of how to use a running agenda.

Most presentations follow a typical format: Opening, Agenda, Body, and Closing (OABC). After your catchy introduction, you give the audience an outline of what they can expect from the presentation. You can easily adapt this outline to a running agenda.

  • Step #1 – Give short titles to each section of your presentation.
  • Step #2 – Place those titles somewhere on each slide where they won’t interfere with your content. (e.g. bottom of the slide).
  • Step #3 – As you progress through your presentation, highlight the title of the section you are currently presenting (e.g. bolded text).

The example below is from the presentation of a marketing survey UVU recently conducted. You can see the running agenda on the left hand side (Intro, Media, Marketing, Message, Q & A). Because this slide about social media use was part of the Media section of the presentation, I highlighted the word “Media” in my running agenda with a green oval. This highlight serves as a reminder to the audience that we are in the Media section of the presentation.

Image by Taylor Lovell
Image by Taylor Lovell

As you organize the content of your presentations into packages – and use running agendas to indicate which package you are currently “delivering” – your audience will (1) follow along better, (2) pay closer attention, and (3) retain more information. Even better than the efficacy of running agendas is just how easy they are to put together. Try one today!

Have you used running agendas in your presentations or attended a presentation that used a running agenda? What did you think? Would you consider using a running agenda? Share your comments below!