Presentations: Storyboarding: The Process

I guess I am old as the hills now. Back in the day (around 1977, in Bob Jones University missions classes) we talked about storyboarding for getting our slide presentation together. A few months ago I actually threw away my slide story boarder. Most people don’t even understand what I am talking about. In those days we used to gather 2 inch by 2 inch slides of what we wanted to present, and from that we made a story on a story board. This is a piece of white plastic in a wedge shape stand that has a light bulb under it, and you turned it on, and placed your slides in the rows, and began to arrange them in a story for your presentation. Wow are you old David! I would like a post (“Yea!”) from anybody who remembers or did that in their past!

Today presentations don’t start with existing slides or pictures, but they start with ideas. The flow of ideas is what is essential in a presentation. As you develop your presentation, you add images and concepts and music to the presentation.

So here I go trying to give some tips on storyboarding and using them to design a presentation.

Let me be clear here, a storyboard is an intermediate design step for a presentation. It is a rough, basic idea medium in which you work up ideas and impressions, trying to get specific images and sounds if possible, and from that, you make a presentation in some kind of software that is designed for presentations. The moodboard is not an end in itself, but just a brainstorming tool to help you push, pull, delete, add, create, or try out your ideas to generally see how they look. Keep it that!

See A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Compelling Presentation Narrative

1. Gather the facts.
2. Conceptualize with “pitches”.
3. Draft each slide.
4. Edit a lot.

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.  Acts 14:27

If we understand this verse correctly, then a missionary presentation is a simple fulfillment of this verse. It is a report to a supporting or concerned church.

The Process

Get a Direction

The first thing in making a great presentation is to examine who you are, and what your presentation is supposed to do for the viewer. The presentation is a failure if it is “generic”. If you are in the first or last slide/image, and you change that to some other missionary, then it is not really much about you is it? Make your presentation about you, and what you are.

(This is really a problem for spiritual people, because while the Bible teaches us to be humble and forget about ourselves in service of others, churches cannot seem to understand this contradiction, and they want to know about you. So if you are going to make a presentation for your ministry, you have to set aside your humility for a while.)

To start building your presentation you need to make some assumptions, and try to build around them. This kind of thing is very difficult to do “abstractly”. What I recommend here is the same method that you use to write prayer letters. Don’t write a prayer letter for you churches, supporters, etc. Pick a particular person and write it to them, and just talk naturally about what is happening. This comes out “naturally”, and most people like that kind of style. These points will help you:

1) What is your goal in your presentation? Why are you presenting it? As easy as this SEEMS, it is not. Do you want money from the audience? Do you want prayer? Do you want sympathy? Do you want this church to send summer teams to your work to participate in it? These are very different goals, and the presentations in each case will be different. Are you promoting yourself, or are you also wanting to promote your mission board, the other missionaries that you are working with on the field, or are you wanting more interest in God’s work in this field?  You need to be well focused on which of these purposes you want for you presentation.

Note that there is a theory (which I ascribe to this theory), that missionaries should only or principally ask for prayer for them and their work. If people are praying God will provide your needs. Financial appeals should be absence or very muted in your presentation. The flip side of this is that some pastors want to hear a financial appeal or they will think you do not need support. To appear to be begging is not good, so adjust what you do however.

Also, your presentation may be rejected or loved by the church depending on how intensely evangelistic they are. To simply this, churches that are not evangelistic will not usually support you nor will they pray for you. It is a miracle even if they let you in the door as a missionary. Churches that are evangelistic, they have missionaries. Note that your presentation should be presented with the idea that the people listening will be generally interested in missions, and that they would respond to a well presented missionary presentation. If they are not interested in any missions, your presentation probably won’t change that. Count the time as a loss and leave gracefully.

See my post Why listen to a missionary presentation?

Start with your audience take-aways. What do you want them to take away from your presentation? Build towards that point. Decide on the presentation’s main purpose.


Make sure your presentation doesn’t have more than three main purposes or take-aways. Rule of three says that nobody will take away more than that from any presentation anyway.

2) How long do you have? Make variations of the same presentation at 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 30 minutes.

I should point out here that time is usually relative. A very boring and uninteresting 10 minute presentation can seem like an eternity, and a 40 minute fascinating presentation seems like but a moment. Issues here are, 1) you are dealing with a brain dead world, in which they don’t listen, and they don’t like talk with no images. So talk little, show a lot of images, keep things moving fast. You MUST MAKE THE PRESENTATION MOVE! In sermons, I tell my people, a sermon outline given at the beginning of a sermon is very useful. First, the people know that what you are saying has a plan. Points 1 through 5. They get auditory markers along the way when you mention, “Now in point 3”. If you take 25 minutes of a 35 minute 5 point sermon, and you are only on point number 1, they will extrapolate that out. 1 point 25 minutes, 5 points around 2 hours. They all begin to pray the Pastor will intercede and stop you somewhere before you pass the first hour. Make your points to occupy the same time span, and keep mentioning them to mark the passage of the presentation or sermon.

NEVER, NEVER talk for more than 3 minutes on any image. If it is something that you need to talk that long on, put up 3-5 different angles of the same thing, and go between them as you talk. Remember, you are trying to give a 30 minute or so presentation to people who have a 10 minute attention span, so put up interesting images that they can wander off thinking about while you rattle on. Talk too much on a single slide, and you will lose them totally. Hopefully with the next image, you can get them back, but don’t bet on it.

3) Who is your audience? Pastors at a pastors’ conference, a single church with all ages, a Christian school classroom setting, etc.

Make your presentation for spiritual, mature  people in your audience. They are the only ones to aim for here. Unspiritual or immature people will not be the ones to decide to give to you, nor pray for you. What does the church want to hear from a missionary speaker, and what do they not want to hear?

4) What aspects about yourself will you present? Are you a veteran missionary or a newbie? What advantages or strengths do you have to offer?

Tell what is good, and forget what is bad or mediocre. Present your best side in every case. Design YOUR presentation around what you have to offer, skipping what is not flattering. Do not talk about “fun” stuff you do as a missionary. Don’t talk about your vacations, what you do on your free time, about the tourist sights you see in your country. There is already a doubt in their mind about every missionary, that they are just on a glorified vacation with their money. Do not add to that concept. Force every non-work centered thought or statement out of your presentation. Present your work on the foreign mission field, not a tourist pass through your town in a foreign country.

5) What do you have to work with? Do you have images already to work with? If you are working with a veteran missionary, do you have images from their work? Can you get general images from the Internet or your mission board?

6) Will this be an after-service thing, or will it be a substitute for a regular Sunday night service? The difference is that you have to work in some kind of Scripture I would think, either in your presentation or afterwards when you talk. In either case, you should shorten the presentation rather than preaching within the presentation. Most audiences don’t want preaching Scriptures to them from a presentation.

7) What is your objective? What are your take-aways?

The objective of your presentation is essential, and it must be clearly defined at the beginning, and it must run rough over everything in your presentation. This is like the thesis of a sermon. What is it about, and what is it trying to accomplish? ANYTHING, no matter how good or great, that doesn’t submit totally to this purpose HAS TO BE EXPUNGED FROM THE PRESENTATION!

A take-away is the thing that you want your audience to take away from your presentation after it is over. At the door, they should clearly remember this.

Some example take-aways for a mission presentation.

1. This missionary is worthy of my prayers and support.

2. I need to help this missionary.

3. The missionary is doing a good job.

4. This missionary’s work is interesting, I want to know more.

8) Build empathy with the audience by common points.

“Empathy” is that they feel for you, are on your side, and identify with you. Use points of belief that are common to you and then. A church that will help a missionary is a church that believes in missions, that it is biblical. They will never tie of hearing verses reinforcing their own beliefs about the importance, necessity, and obligation of missions. This is where we start. We build empathy with them by reminding them of these Christian obligations to go, witness, plant churches, and pray for these things where others are doing them. Tell them you are praying for their church work in the States (and do pray for them). This is a reciprocal situation.

Although there are other points of commonality between you and them (maybe you are a woman, and you can appeal to the women, or you are from their state) these points are not as strong or effective as doctrinal and ministerial commonalities. There is a great breadth of points you can use if they are “on the same page” as you are. For example, evangelism, soul-winning, discipleship, counseling, family exhortations, marital exhortations, prayer by your people on the field, etc. To work these angles up is important.

9) Just tell them what you are doing.

The best way to convince people to support you financially or by their prayers is to just tell them or show them what you are actually doing. With the miracle of modern video cameras, take photos and videos and show them what is going on. Explain the why and how and what of your ministry. Some churches will be turned off by that. Meditate on the why. Is it because they as Christians are not interested in the salvation of souls? For some churches and individuals, no they are not. That is not your problem. You do what is right, and let those people who are hell-bent on not doing what is right go their own way. Don’t let the off base people shift you from your direction or goals.

Secondly consider that maybe, just maybe you are not doing what is best for a missionary to be doing. If you are promoting donations of used clothes to take to some third world country, and churches don’t seem to want to donate money for this, maybe they see their donations and prayers to your ministry a waste. Perhaps it is, and perhaps you should shift your ministry to something better founded on Scripture. Do something that is more biblical. Is that really worth sending a missionary out there to do? Probably not. Comparing free shirts for the poor to telling them about Christ, the latter is always better.

9) Never ask for money. Ask for their prayers and their support.

Others may debate me about this, but never make an open appeal for funds. Don’t tell people about some aspect of your ministry, and then try to solicit funds right there on the spot. I heard of a missionary giving a presentation once, and he said that they have a Bible correspondence school, and that with $5 a month, they can send out a Bible study to somebody who has written in asking for it. He asked for people in the mission’s conference that would commit to giving $5 a month, and please raise your hand. The fact that we were in a missions conference with people and pastors from 20 different churches complicated this for him greatly. He got not responses.

In general, use your direct appeals with the pastor or if the pastor points you to their mission committee, or somebody in charge of missions at their church, then direct all your appeals for financial support to that person. What happens here is very important. When you make direct public appeals, sometimes the pastor doesn’t like you or your group. Something is different between you and him doctrinally, or in methodology, and he is not going to support you. Perhaps he has allowed you to come in because he wants a new missionary presentation every month or two, but you are not his darling. You appeal for money in your presentation, and some individual wants to give their mission dollars to you. Great. But the pastor is placed in a dilemma because he doesn’t want that money to go to you but somebody he likes. The situation places you as the bad guy against the pastor. That situation is never good.

Every church out there knows that you are presenting your ministry trying to raise financial support. But knowing that, most appreciate a missionary that keeps the financial appeals to “I am at 50% of my support level”, and stops. This both alerts them that you are in need, but it does not put the salesman’s hard core appeal trying to twist people’s arms to give to him.

10. Never show other people’s work as your own.

It is extremely discomforting when you as a missionary visit a church unannounced, just sitting in the back, and another missionary is there, and you begin to recognize the slides as belonging to a different missionary’s or national’s church. I have seen missionaries present slides of people in a church in which that church was not their own. Stealing is wrong, lying is wrong, and somewhere this has a double wrong on it. Show what YOU are doing, and if you work with somebody else, fine, the work is the both of you, so that is fine. But if you show groups of people supposedly saved under your ministry, when in fact they were saved and attending some other church’s ministry, that is just doubly wrong. Be very careful about taking other missionaries images from their websites or presentations and using them. In general that is unethical, unless you publicly give credit as coming from the other missionary.

11. Inspire the congregation’s confidence and trust in you, and never give the impression that you are silly, unbalanced, immature, or unstable.

Understand what we are dealing with in Christian missions. Churches are selecting you as their representative to go to another country and do what they want done. In a real sense, they are your boss. But the key point in a missionary is that there are no oversight over the missionary. We can discuss a mission board or a home church giving oversight, but even so, nobody is on the field checking on your activity daily. Just doesn’t happen. So the churches have to trust you. Use only presentations or things in a presentation that would build and reinforce that confidence in you, and never, ever do or say anything that would erode that confidence and trust in you. If you want to be a fan for some sports team, fine, do it. But don’t mix that with business, because churches don’t want to see their leaders in ridiculous situations.

If you don’t know the Bible, or you are timid about standing before other people (large crowd or small) telling them of Christ, then you shouldn’t be a missionary. They are paying you to do exactly those things, speak intelligently about God and His salvation to people. That needs to come through your presentation, and not the opposite. They are trusting you to do the work of the Lord, and not to receive their money and sit at home comfy.

Build an idea river that flows

Start building with points in the presentation, and here, this should be something like a sermon, with 3 points. Only in a presentation, the talking about each point needs to be very little, and the points need to be more, perhaps 12 to 30 depending on your time constraints. Before you go wild writing a lot of notes, do the math. A 40 minute presentation with 30 points to present reduces each presentation of each point to around a minute apiece (with introduction and conclusion). Bad. You probably should shoot for around 3-4 minutes for each point and limit your ideas to 10-12.

Now start developing the points like islands with bridges between them. The bridges are transitions. Most of the time, it is pleasant and well received to offer a rapid slide show of images with a few second per slide (either at the beginning or end of your presentation).

In general, it is better to start off “brainstorming” (nasty word in today’s society because nobody thinks). Here you need to come up with around 40-50 good points you want to present in your presentation. From these points, you want to evaluate and mediate on each point. Look at a general theme or purpose or topic, and make this come through your presentation by what you put in it, and how you design it. You need to focus on central, non-competing ideas. You don’t want drastically different points, but a flow from one point to the other without really changing the theme if you can. If you cannot do this, then limit your presentation to 3-4 themes, maybe 2, and present each as a mini-presentation, and make a good transition between them.

Some helps along this line.

Don’t complain. Everybody knows living in a foreign country is different that living in the US, and there are trade offs in doing what you are doing. Don’t acentuate the things you miss!

Tell people about your calling, and what God is doing through you and your ministry. This is what the audience in a church wants to hear from a missionary.

See also

 Creating a Missions Presentation
7 Steps to Giving a Missionary Presentation
The Dangers of Missionary Messages