Behind-The-Scenes: How I prepared for my 20x20 Talk (or really, any presentation.)

I had to opportunity to speak at the General Assembly for the Type Thursday event in Downtown Los Angeles powered by Pecha Kucha 20x20.

The topic of choice? Typography.

What did I talk about? Well, sorta, typography. Actually, more like hand lettering… anxiety… and… depression. YEA I KNOW, strange combination.  

Each speaker was given 20 slides, not bad right? You’re probably like “OKAY, KRISLAM, THAT’S NOT A CHALLENGE YOU NOOB.)


Each of those slides was timed to change ON ITS OWN every 20 seconds. Which means, no, there was no clicker. Nor a timer.
Yea. Let that sink in. Talk about a stretch project.

By the way, you can watch that video here!

I’ve received praise on how well I was able to present the project and while I’d like to say that I was born with God-given talents to present seamlessly, I wasn't.

What I loved about this presentation, apart from the content that I was presenting, was this exact exercise of not having control of your slides and really just rehearsing over… and over…and…over…again.

“Okay, Krislam, but how did you prepare”
Great question. I’m here to share with you all how I prepared for my 20x20 talk, or well, any talk really. Ready?

You start off with realizing the difficulty of the project and going into an out of control spiral filled with anxiety.

I’m just kidding. 


I cannot stress enough that I went back and forth whether or not I should start building slides right away or just go spew out my thoughts on a piece of paper and see what I can grab from it. The latter gave me a lot of anxiety since it wasn’t structured, but honestly the more structure I tried giving it, the less I was able to be creative and give it my personal flare. 

With that being said, one morning on the way to work, I used my Notes App on my phone and just spoke into the speaker of my car using the Dictation Tool (which by the way, is freaking awesome.) You can see in the screenshots below that I did not hold back whatsoever.

Krislam = Chris Some. I said it was awesome, not perfect.


I printed out my notes on a legal size document and started picking out sections that were important to my presentation vs. things that just seemed like fillers. Again, I had 20 seconds for each slide. EVERY. SECOND. COUNTS!

I also began thinking of slides, again, not in front of a computer just on paper. I’m a presentation designer so it helped a lot with how I wanted to structure my slides, which in this case was either JUST ONE WORD or images.

(Yes, I subscribe to Graze. You should too and use my promo code KRISLA3GB to get your 1st and 5th box for free. I’M SO NOT KIDDING. Also, Graze didn’t pay me to say that. I just really love snacks being delivered to me because, hello, food.)


This is my favorite part! After I got my story down, I sat in front of my computer and built my slides. I printed the thumbnails on an 11x17 paper so that I can write down the thoughts I had for each slide. At this point, I still had a TON OF finessing to do with the content, but the general idea for each slide was there.



My mentor, Cody, advised that in order for me to nail this presentation I really had to rehearse and he was SO right. I really thought I was going to be able to SORTA practice and just improv in the middle. (Thank goodness I didn’t)

So I practiced…everywhere. In the car, shower, washing dishes, walking the dogs… everywhere. Huge shout out to Jay for listening to my talk so many times! You da best!

Learning Moment: I made the initial mistake of not practicing early on with my slides. I put up 7 minutes and timed myself per the 20 sec. mark. I thought that would have been sufficient enough as a dry run, it wasn’t up until I finally put my slides up on the TV at home when I realized…Yep, not the same.


It was during my many rehearsals at home where I finessed the content of each of the slides. Again, like I mentioned earlier, every second counts so any filler content had to get cut.

My 11”x17” paper became an 8.5”x14” which finally made it down to 8.5”x11” by this point each slide was dedicated to either ONE word or ONE sentence. Jay, my boyfriend, advised me to do this which allowed me to focus on the main takeaway. I asked myself the question, “If there is anything that your audience should take from this one slide, what would it be without the fluff?


The time finally came, I watched as the speaker before me finish his last slide and I just thought to myself “you got this. you got this. you got this. BREATHE!” I felt confident, but I was worried that I would look into the audience and movement/sound would de-rail me from my thought process. BUT, ALAS, I went up there and well…I. Am. Proud.

I practiced for about 2.5 weeks and I am very glad that I kicked my butt into shape to do so, because I’m not 100% sure what it would have looked like if I waited closer to the presentation date.

I hope this helps! If not, well, at least now you know that I’m subscribed to Graze.