Research is an important step during your preparation. Even though you're probably here because you want to know more about design, I dare to say that without research your presentation design won't work. Research takes time. A lot of time. Until now I didn't emphasize the importance of it, but here I should.
Whenever you are creating a presentation, start it well ahead of time, so that you'll have everything done by the big day. This is something I always had problem with, because a too long preparation period can cause spending my time wandering around too much, doing unimportant things, while the more difficult tasks are on hold. I know it's not only my problem: Zach Holman says: "Talk preparation will expand to fill all available time". So this is where the thinking and agenda part comes in handy. If you have a great base, you can see clearly what needs to be done. You can create a timeline, it depends on your personality if it helps you or not. A too detailed one can be distracting and superfluous, because you have to adjust every step all the time. I prefer my agenda without a clear timeline, but that's because I don't like constraints. If you find it useful, create one, but make it generous, and don't go into details. Put a deadline on your main points and don't be afraid of working on more of them simultaneously, as one thing will lead to another while you're exploring your possibilities.
So if you have a lot of time until your presentation, and by lot of time I mean months, you can look around in the book store. I like Amazon, because I have a Kindle, and that's the easiest and more comfortable way to buy and read books. In addition you have access to great reviews, so you can decide in advance if the book is for you or not. I usually pick no more than two books on the subject: trying to find the most relevant ones. If you read through the table of contents before the purchase, you can also save time and money. Don't spend too much time on it, however, because the most important thing you'll need is your own head. Seriously.
Don't buy new books if you're short on time. Re-read your existing ones, or jump to the next step: collect links to great articles, blogs and forums. Use Google. Try not to be distracted, this is collection time, you'll read them later.
How much later? Even if you have months until your presentation, try to spend no more than a week or two with this collecting phase. You'll always find new ones, and it's quite easy to get lost on the internet, just think about the time when you tell yourself you'll only check your messages on facebook (tip: try messenger instead).
Reading sounds easy, but it's not. Especially not these days. Set aside time, schedule it in your day. Don't let anything disturb you when you're reading. Try to improve your reading habits by reading with greatest focus for short periods in the beginning, then expand these periods gradually. Take notes while you're reading. If you take electronic notes right away, you save yourself a lot of time and it also prevents headaches when it comes to searchability.
Try to take notes with your own words instead of copying the content. It will help you with content creation. I always try to stay original, but collecting ideas is important. If you sleep on it (reading & notes), you'll be able to create your own version. It will be based on the read one, yet it will be unique because you add your own language and touch to it.
There's a good video about this from one of my favourite designers out there: Erik Spiekermann. He talks about typography here, but it can be applied to any creative process. This is a gem:
When you read everything, transfer your notes to your agenda points, so you can use them later as notes in the presenter view, or as titles on slides.
The next step of the TARGET method is Gathering facts, more on that in a forthcoming post.
(I'm also writing a future post about reading, where I'll explain its role and importance, and explore it in depth. If you're interested in it, you can subscribe to my weekly email to be notified about new posts and other news.)