Last week, the light globe in the lamp on my wife’s side of the bed stopped working. Of course, this is a trivial job; no need to call an electrician. So, I went to the hardware store to buy a replacement globe, something I have done on many other occasions. On all these past occasions the outcome was as expected: I’d replaced the globe and the light worked fine. On this occasion however, I could not put the globe in the lamp. Because most of the lights in our house take the bayonet-type light globe, I assumed that the bedside lamp would too. Unfortunately it did not; this lamp requires screw-in type globes, which I should have checked before going out to buy a replacement.
I learned from this experience that no matter how trivial an exercise, you should always prepare.
This advice is also good if you have an upcoming presentation at an event or conference.
Most of us are not professional speakers. When we are asked to present a report to our work colleagues, deliver a best-man speech, or speak at a community event, we don’t immediately know how to prepare. So here are some tips on how to prepare for your presentation.
Prepare for the presentation
Preparation for a presentation is important. But it is more important to Understand that preparation is important. Why? Often many of us think that we can either prepare in our heads or do the presentation impromptu. We fall into the trap that just because we have done this presentation before, or many others like it, we think we are prepared. But this is not the case. Understanding, knowing that you have to, and setting aside some time to prepare will allow you to look deeply into the following points and be really prepared to deliver a great presentation.
Determine the Outcome
Many presenters focus on the presentation and forget the reason why they are presenting. A while ago I was asked to present an information session on accounting best practices to a group of project managers. My instinct always tells me to just throw everything I know onto Power Point™ slides. But because I am practised at this step, I asked myself, and then the person requesting the presentation, what is the expected outcome of my presentation? I found out that the manager asking for this information wanted his project managers to enter the right codes against financial transactions entered into the system. This changed the presentation significantly. The PM’s received the right information and were able to act on it. Had I not performed this step, I would have bored them with an hour of useless information but walked away thinking that I had achieved something.
Draft your presentation to achieve that outcome
Every single thing you say or do in your presentation should be targeted at achieving your set outcome. If it does not, leave it out. It will take time, and seem out of place and irrelevant. People are not there to hear how great you are; they are there to seek help in achieving their outcome.
Craft your presentation to your audience
Do you know who your audience is? Do you know how many there will be? Will your audience be already knowledgeable on your topic or will they be novices? Will they be front-line workers or executives? Will they expect a recommendation or a set of alternatives? You will need to craft your language, tone, pace and voice to suit the audience to whom you will be presenting.
Get to know the room
I hate getting to a presentation where it takes the presenter 10 minutes to learn how to use the Audio-Visual equipment to work. Or the presenter uses a microphone on a room of 10 people. Or doesn’t use one in a room of a hundred. There are many other pitfalls like these, so ask before you get there, or better sill, visit the location before your presentation and check the stage, lectern, lights and AV equipment.
Get there early
This should go without saying, but doesn’t. Get there early. Set up your presentation. Meet and greet the people at the door. (This has the added benefit of your audience having established a connection with you even before you speak). Be ready to start on time. Nothing worse than a presenter still setting up the presentation 10 minutes after it was supposed to start.
One last tip: Try your presentation without Power Point. If you can, then you should. Otherwise it is not the slides helping you to deliver your message, it is you helping your slides.
These are just the basic tips on preparation; there are far more you can try after you have mastered these. Professional speakers and presenters all have their own routines on how to prepare. The sooner you find your own routine, the sooner your presentations will look and sound professional.