This guide covers everything you need to know to prepare for your presentation. including what you need to think about beforehand, during and after the presentation.
Once you have your presentation worked out, you will need to practice it, but even though you might think it’s the best way to have a flawless presentation, don’t memorise what you’re going to say.
That might sound like incredibly bad advice, but here’s why:
Not only that, but every audience is different. Sometimes they laugh out loud, sometimes they sit and smile, and you never know which type of audience you’ll have until you’re live.
If you’re going off a memorised presentation, it’s much more difficult to break away from that to go with the flow on the day, and respond naturally to your audience.
Rehearse in front of colleagues, friends, a mirror, in virtual reality – always aloud. Make sure you spend plenty of time practising your presentation, it will make you feel much more relaxed if you know your material.
Do, however, memorise your opening line. If you know how you’re going to begin, you’ll get a strong start and that will build your confidence.
Many speakers and stage actors find that the minute they’ve actually delivered their first line, the nerves are gone and they’re well into their stride.
Writing your presentation out in your own handwriting will help you clarify your ideas and may well bring you new ones.
As well as practising for the ideas and what you want to say, practise how you want your presentation to flow. Think of it almost as a symphony, with high points, slow movements and crescendos. If it’s important, think about how you want your audience to feel, what emotions you want them to have, and when.
Don’t be afraid to pause and use the power of silence. A good pause can have a huge emotional impact. It allows people to really absorb what you are saying and react, and it’s vital to pause if you’re using humour so that the next part of your presentation doesn’t get lost underneath people’s laughter.
For more on the 'Power of the Pause', watch this short from video Brian Tracy: The Power of the Pause
There’s nothing worse than the projector dying or finding that your laptop won’t communicate with the projector for some reason. If you know you have a backup, even if it’s only a pre-prepared flip chart, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be more confident.
Following on from that, arrive at least half an hour early so you aren’t feeling rushed, and so you have time to check your equipment and get your notes laid out ready to go. That gives you time to breathe and relax before you go on, knowing everything is as set as it can be.
Use physical props, if possible, for a demo. This can make you stand out and be more memorable among all the other speakers who only use PowerPoint, and it can add greatly to the impact of your presentation.
Video showing an example of using physical props during a live demo.
First, find out how much time you have to present, is it 10 minutes, 15, an hour? Prepare enough material for this time and have a couple of extra slides as backup – we tend to speak much quicker when nervous so you might find you finish your presentation too early. At some large conference events, timings may change on the day, be aware of this have a shorter version of your presentation in mind (i.e. know which slides to skip over).
Have a few backup slides for questions you think will arise from your presentation. It is sometime a tactic to explain a section briefly in your speech, so that you get a question about it afterwards. If you don’t understand the question, ask for it to be rephrased.
If there are no questions, it is not an indication how good or bad your presentation was. You many have explain your material extremely well, or simply that people are tired at the end of the day and want to go home.
If you can, go to the room you are speaking in before the actual event. It gives you an idea of furniture layout, podium height, location, room size, audience size and lighting. You can then visualise the room while practising and avoid the shock of suddenly being faced with a huge room when you expected a tiny one.
Ask the organiser if you need any particular props, for example a table to help with your live demo.
Additional planning to think about before your presentation:
1. Purpose – what outcome are we trying to achieve? How can results be measured? What will success look like?
2. Topic – Novelty? Complexity? Technical?
3. People – Who should attend? What do they already know? How are they going to help?
4. Timing – When will it happen and how long will the presentation take?
5. Location – Where will the presentation be held? Do you have access to the correct facilities for the presentation?
6. Papers – Who is keeping minutes? Do you need to send out an agenda before the presentation? Background information required?
7. Visual aids – Is a projector required? Boards?
8. Style – Structure or unstructured, discussion style? How assertive should you be? How should the meeting items be organised?
Before the presentation, think about these 5 topics:
Decide how you will use each of these to reinforce your message. Use the table below for help.
|Voice||Flat, monotonous, trails off, shaky, hesitant.||Sharp, cold, loud, shouts, abrupt, clipped, fast.||Controlled, firm, warm, rich, clear, even, loud.|
|Pace||Ers and ums, jerky, too slow, too fast.||Fast, emphatic, blameful, abrupt, erratic, hurried.||Steady and controlled, changes easily.|
|Eye Contact||Evasive, looking down, darting, low eye contact.||Stares and glaring, dominating, fixed gaze, threatening.||Firm not fixed, natural and relaxed.|
|Facial Gestures||Fixed smile, apology facial gestures, blinking, blushing, chewing lip.||Set face, few smiles, clenched jaw, frowning, chin forward, lips tight, gritted teeth.||Open, varied and congruent expressions, calm, jaw relaxed, few blinks, smiles.|
|Body Language||Hunched, hand over mouth, arms crossed, head down, slumping, legs crossed, stands awkwardly, soft handshake.||Thumping, clenched fists, pointing, pacing, leaning forward, sharp and rapid movements, crushing handshake.||Open hand and arm movements, head upright, calm, emphatic gestures, relaxed, head nodding to show attention, firm handshake.|