Lean Presentation Canvas

The aim of the Lean Presentation Canvas 

To provide people preparing for a presentation with a tool to help make both the preparation and the presentation value-led, entertaining and effective. All the while, the presentation is performable throughout the whole duration of the preparation. 

What is this really about? 

The Lean Presentation Canvas is a template similar to a Business Model Canvas and if filled out, makes the presentation more straightforward, structured and thought through. Download the last version of the Canvas here.

How does Canvas work?

Fill in the fields. Focus on one field at a time. We consider this guideline to outline the fields in the most logical order, so I suggest you proceed in this order. It is okay, if the first attempt is not perfect, you are not satisfied with all of your answers or you were unable to fill a field out. Once you’ve finished filling out the fields, ask for assistance. Show someone whose opinion you trust, for example your mentor, coach or a colleague who you consider to be a more experienced presenter. Even a friend whom you like will suffice. Ask them to look through your canvas and pose questions which help to clarify and question what you have written. Subsequently refine the relevant fields. Do not proceed until the Canvas has all four of its corners. As long as you don’t know to whom, why and what you want to say as well as what your mutual gain making the presentation worth presenting, don’t spend any more time on it.

Once the Canvas is filled out, you can start creating and working out the material needed to illustrate and support your presentation based on the answers – you can immerse yourself in stories, write the texts, draw the illustrations, prepare the slideshow or videos or purchase the necessary props. 

Often, while preparing the presentation material I realise that some things should be done differently than how I put it in the Canvas. This is normal, deviation from Canvas and refining the Canvas on the go is allowed – it is merely a guideline, it is not set in stone. 

The Canvas fields

The presenter (me)

This is your presentation. You’ll be the one standing in front of the audience, you’ll be sacrificing your time during the preparation and your glory will be on the line. This sacrifice is only worth taking if it helps you get closer to your personal goals. 

What is your goal with the presentation? Why are you spending your time with preparation? What is the inner urge, momentum convincing you to make all the sacrifices for the presentation? What do you gain by presenting? What do you want to gain? What do you desire? Put these in the relevant fields. 

You might not be able to answer all the questions from the get go. Often, I struggle for the first time as well. Ask for assistance. Let someone review what you’ve written and ask questions to help you get an even better feel for your own goal.

Think through how much time you have to prepare the presentation. The first version of Canvas is a twenty- minute job. A few more iterations will be needed to reach the desired stage. With its aid, a presentation can be performed without further illustrations or assisting material, but a presentation can be made better using the appropriate illustrations. It is important to be clear about how much time you spend on preparing these. What investment is the preparation of the material and the practice worth in relation to your goal. 

Common mistakes:

  • The gain you set yourself, is not a gain to you at all. For example: “My gain is that everyone leaves my presentation happier than when they came.” What you actually gain is an image of you as someone who can make the audience feel happier forming in the minds of the audience members.
  • The gain you set yourself, is not that much of a gain at all. For example: “My gain is that I can say that I have done a presentation.” Is this really enough for you? Is this what you made all the sacrifices and worked for? Be more selfish than that!

The audience

This is your presentation. It’s about you. It helps you fulfil your own goal. This also means that it is not necessarily for everyone. You cannot satisfy everyone’s needs, so satisfy the needs of those who are important to you. 

Who do you want to address? Who do you want to profit, to gain – in exchange for what you gain from the presentation? What you desire to give will not address everyone in the audience, which is not a problem, but think about who you want to address. They are your audience. 

What does the audience gain by listening to your presentation? What can they take from the presentation? What do they receive? Think about this, put it in the relevant field, and make promises during your presentation. For example: “If you join me today, I promise that you’ll get specific practical examples of how you can solve this.”

Common mistakes:

  • You want to address everyone.
  • You tailor your message to the demands of the audience. 
  • You fail to say or promise your audience what they will gain by listening to you. 
  • What you name as the audience’s gain is actually your gain. 


The expected impact

Unless all you desire is to entertain, you will want to trigger some kind of reaction in the audience. To invite you to consult, to buy what you offer, to stop shouting at employees etc. If your targets are in the audience and you fail to trigger their reaction, then the whole thing was worthless. 

Once managing to grasp the expected effect, subject everything you do in the presentation to it, because you can ask yourself the following question: does this support the desired effect in the audience? This way, you don’t waste time on topics which albeit interesting to you and the audience, don’t help the desired effect, which is essentially a loss for everyone. 

Common mistakes:

  • The desired effects you set are so minor that the presentation is not worth undertaking: Think about it, research, then take a different approach. 
  • Drawing up an expected effect which you cannot reach.



The presentation was effective if the audience can easily recall its substance, what the presenter wanted to say and the message of the presentation. In order to achieve this, it is indispensable for the presenter to know his/her presentation’s main messages, which the rest of the content and ideas should serve. 

More often than not, a presenter has more smart and important ideas on a subject than what fits into the message of a presentation. Experience shows that a message has an effect on the audience if it gets 5-10 minutes of support during a presentation, usually composed of legitimate and memorable stories and ideas relating to the message. For example, no more than 2 or 3 messages fit into a 15-minute presentation. 

In most cases, the presenter has to structure and prioritise his/her ideas. A mind map can be used as help, where ideas are put in a tree-shaped structure providing a framework which helps to understand which ideas are more important. What the messages are and the ideas supporting those messages. 

Common mistakes:

  • The message and the expected effect are not logically connected, which means the formulated message cannot reach the expected effect. Although this may sound strange, it is a very common mistake.
  • I have too many smart ideas and it is hard to accept that I cannot say everything, so I fill the presentation with messages.  A presentation with too many messages, in fact has no message at all. Nothing is emphasised.
  • The messages are not emphasised enough in the presentation. They are not highlighted or stressed which results in the audience feeling unsure about what presentation was about. 


The enemy (the pain)

It’s time for stories. Specific stories which present the pain, the agony, the problem requiring a solution. It cannot be left unresolved. Stories which showcase the problem in a painful, naked and transparent manner. These stories help the audience connect with the presentation and allow those with similar problems to identify themselves, so they become more interested and pay attention. I expose the wound, put salt on it and dunk with white-hot iron until everyone who has this problem identifies themselves. It is worthwhile to present the problem through several stories from multiple sides. 

Common mistakes:

  • The presenter outlines the problem itself instead of introducing it through a story. It is easier for the audience to live through and sympathise with the problem if it is introduced in an expressive story. 
  • The story is not real, not authentic. Ideally, the story is the presenter’s experience. It is equally sufficient if the presenter heard the story from someone – it might be a good idea to share who it’s from. It is not authentic to tell an untrue story. 
  • Making someone uncomfortable with the story. Transforming a story to ensure that it does not make anyone uncomfortable by concealing the name of those involved and when it happened is allowed. As long as it is based on true events, the unreal aspect of the story, the fact that it never materialised this way, is not problematic. 
  • We don’t immerse ourselves in the problem enough. We rush through, merely telling a story tangentially. This is problematic because the audience will not be able to sympathise with the situation. 
  • Pain is not discussed at the beginning of the presentation. The task of the pain stories is to engage the audience with the presentation and the sooner this happens, the better. 


The hero (the solution)

It’s time for stories again. The story of how I managed to solve the problem. Stories are used to ensure memorability. People won’t remember the solution, but they will remember stories about the solution. Gather stories about the different aspects of the solution.

Consider here the questions which may arise in relation to your solution. 

Think through your answers to these questions and collect stories which describe your answers well. This way, the audience already receive an answer to their questions and what’s more, in a memorable way. 

Common mistakes:

  • We share the solution, instead of the stories about the solution. This is not memorable enough. 
  • The stories are not authentic – for example because they are made up. 
  • Very obvious questions remain unanswered by the solution. Apparent questions remain open. 



What proves that everything in the presentation isn’t just a fabrication or someone saying something (and as we know, a traveller may lie with authority) but is actually based on real facts and academic results.  

There are multiple ways to support what was said:

  • Authentication through an authentic presenter. To do this, why the presenter is authenticr must be stated during the presentation.
    • What are my professional qualifications and experiences which make me authentic? What have I done in the past that is relevant to the presentation? For example: I have been the leader of the Jedi Council for 820 years. 
    • Why am I the one telling you all this? What connects me to this topic?
  • Authentication through academic material. 
    • What academic material did I work from that makes my experiences legitimate? 
    • What books and articles provide the basis for what was said? What makes this material legitimate?
  • Authentication through tangible evidence. Providing physical evidence of what was said can be especially strong proof.
    • Is there an object, photograph, video or voice recording that proves what was said? A photograph of a team who is engaged with the relevant topic. Or a photo of an end product. 
    • Is there an end product that proves what was said? 
    • Is there a witness, who can prove its legitimacy in person or through a recording?
    • Is there a story which helps to show that what was said is legitimate? 
    • Is there a photo or video which proves the legitimacy of the shared stories? 


Common mistakes:

  • The presentation fails to pan out to explain the legitimacy of what was said. 


How do you know?

Figuring out the expected effect in itself is not enough, but this must be measured ahead of time to make the presentation worthwhile. How will you know if you triggered the desired effect among your audience? This is not easy, as they usually don’t reveal themselves. That is why you have to spend time figuring out how to set a trap for them. For example: “I have a few copies of a more detailed description of this product, which you can only find with me. If you’re interested, find me after my presentation.”

Common mistakes:

  • Pointing to indicators which are not specific enough to measure the desired effect. For example: clapping, at least four people coming up and asking questions after the presentation. 


Most people start preparing for a presentation by opening a Powerpoint on their computer. Creating slides, especially with text, is too easy, which quickly becomes disturbing noise instead of helping to get the message through. Talking on the radio can be very effective, where the only prop is your voice, so make sure you choose your props carefully and instead of holding you back, they will actually help. At first, it is worth presenting a raw version to a test audience and then thinking about your possible tools. Often, among other things, a slideshow is worth making, but this can be combined with many things. A video, an installation, a guest on stage might be worth more than the slides. 

How does this become a presentation? 

In order for the presentation to be presentable at all times it must be built up layer by layer. If you have the filled out canvas, the messages can be presented in a flash. Obviously, the chances of reaching the desired effect with a few sentences are slim, which is why we must build a presentation.

The next step is preparing the enemy (the pain), so developing the relevant stories. The enemy and the message are a performable unit together as well.

Now comes the hero and authentication as two new building blocks. Each and every building block provides a performable presentation put together with those before it. Then come the props followed by further decoration: the way we talk, stand, gesture, hold our hand, accentuate. These are also important, but unnecessary as long as the blocks under it are unstable. 

In relation to the components of the presentation, to ensure focused attention, the following structure is advised, where the message can appear several times throughout several components:

  • the enemy (let the audience realise that it relates to them, as the enemy is mutual)
  • the hero (can’t wait for the solution, let’s give it to him/her)
  • authentication (can I really believe this solution from this presenter?)