Most of the presentations, along with their audience, suffer from typical mistakes:
• corny visuals on slides;
• a big amount of text that needs visualizing.
This article is focused on these most typical mistakes…

Some people may be more creative than the others, and interesting ideas for visualization are often time consuming. There is a tool that allows you to plan the contents of your slides in advance and find interesting solutions even before you open PowerPoint (or any other program for creating presentations). This tool is called a storyboard — a sketch of slides by hand on paper.

Further you will learn:
• what contribution did storyboards bring to the creation of our favorite cartoons,
• how they can help us make cool presentations,
• what they look like.

1. The role of storyboards in creating Disney cartoons

Some of the famous Walt Disney Company cartoons

Entire generations of people have grown up and will grow up on Disney cartoons. Since 1923, Walt Disney company has been making cartoons with an interesting story and a good drawing. Such cartoons take years to create, in the process of creation, their plot can be repeatedly changed so that the viewer watches them with interest from beginning to end.

Drawing a complete cartoon, to start changing its script later is costly and silly, and all the work goes in vain. It makes more sense to create a draft, discuss it with the writers, and then draw it clean, right?

It seems so, but in life it’s different. An example from the world of presentations: you have been making slides for your boss all night, and in the morning you find out that he had a completely different story on his mind.

Guys from Disney studios have solved this problem a long time ago. In order not to waste resources on redrawing unapproved scenes each time, they introduced storyboards, that is, visualizing the script without special details.

We do not write stories, we draw them

— Walt Disney

A storyboard is usually enough for writers to be able to walk through the frames of a cartoon and see what it lacks, which plot twists should be changed, or what character to add. Interesting documentary about storyboards →

A storyboard for Disney studios animated film Aladdin

Storyboard has proved to be an indispensable tool for creating cartoons. Later it started to be used by other film studios, for example, like Pixar, for example.

Storyboard for "Up" cartoon by Pixar

Storyboards are also used in the production of films and advertising. It is much easier to sell the idea of an advertising video to the client with the help of the frames of the future clip and not in words.
We often use storyboards to create presentations and advise it to everyone.

2. How storyboards help us make cool presentations

Plan your presentation before you open PowerPoint / Prezi / Keynote and create the first slide.

Begin by determining which text should be on the slides and what needs to be visualized. The text on the slides should not be a repetition of your speech. Everything on the slide should complement, not replace, you.

Such text should either remain on the slides, or be replaced by relevant visualizations.

Next, take a pen / pencil, a sheet of paper and start sketching the slides. The storyboard does not have to be super-neatly drawn, the main thing is that you can explain to your colleagues what is supposed to be on the slides.

My storyboard for the presentation about S2Go (the name of the company was changed for the article).
I am one of the Reprezent’s non-designers, our designers draw storyboards much more professionally :)
But this storyboard can be discussed with colleagues as well, as it gives a clear understanding on the position of visuals and text.

Such sketches save a lot of our valuable time. After all, now you do not need to keep everything in mind. With the ready sketches it is possible to find icons on the Internet much faster or to draw them manually.

There is another aspect of working with presentations — many are used to visualizing text on a slide with either tried and trusted solutions that have always been used before, or the first idea that came to mind. Having drawn several variants of one slide, you can immediately compare them and choose which one suits best.

Storyboards help you get away from corny ideas of visualizations on slides

There is an exercise we offer at our lectures and workshops: each participant needs to come up with five options for visualizing the slide with the text "Our company has 5 offices in different countries."

Each student has three minutes to complete the task and then we see how many unique options are made up. Usually there are 15-20 of them. Even in three minutes of brainstorm you can come up with an interesting slide.

3. Storyboards examples

Below you can find several examples, of how the slides look like on storyboards, and in finished presentations. In the course of design, the elements can change of course. But often on the stage of storyboards you can already see what the icons will look like, what photos are needed, where the important text or numbers will be located.

Example of storyboard for presentation about company. We already can notice, where the graphic elements will be placed.
We can see that storyboard and final design are very similar.

Storyboard for WainApp pitch deck
Final design of WainApp pitch deck

We already know where to look for quality materials. With a finished storyboard, all we need to do is just look for icons, pictures, make sure that they are all in the same style and paste them into the presentation.

Discuss the presentation at the storyboard stage

We often make presentations for various speakers. With TEDxKyiv conference it is an average of 8−10 presentations, which must be prepared in two to three days. You have no right to make a mistake when you know that the presentation will be seen by at least 500 people.

That is why we always draw a storyboard based on the speech during the speakers' rehearsals, and in the process of drawing we try to look for visualizations that will complement the speaker and their idea. After the slide sketch is ready, together with the speaker we coordinate the visualizations, make corrections and only then we proceed to the design.

Such process is perfect for anyone who makes presentations for somebody else’s performance.

Presentation storyboard for Andrew Baumeister at TEDxKyiv'16.
The storyboard was drawn during the rehearsal, coordinated with the speaker and later a presentation was made the night before the performance.

Are you using the storyboards in your presentation design process? Share your experience in the comments.

Additional materials

Mini-documentary on storyboards:
Storyboards article by Pixar:
Garr Reynolds' blog:

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