Successful preparation is the basis for a successful presentation

When you find out that you need to give a presentation, your first step should be preparation.

And to successfully prepare, you need to know what steps you need to take. What are the steps of preparation for a successful presentation?

1. Complete an overview/planning form

The very first step to take is to complete an overview/planning form. This form (part of my Outstanding Presentations Self-Study course) should guide you throughout and will keep you from wasting time by going off track. It should include your goal, main points, conclusion and more.

2. Brainstorm and collaborate ideas for the presentation

You’re not finished with the overview/planning form because you should consider other approaches and ideas. Spend some time thinking of possible points that would be valuable or persuasive to your audience. Ask others. Then hone your ideas into 3 main points and modify your form if necessary. Remember that the purpose of brainstorming is to evoke creativity but that the second part of the process is to refine and come up with the best ideas.

3. Research your audience

Find out what your audience needs/wants to know. What is their current level of knowledge and interest? What problems are they experiencing? Sometimes, you can simply ask. Other times, you need to do some research. But you need to know. Then modify your overview/planning form if necessary.

4. Figure out how long your talk should be

I’m going to blow your mind here. Let’s say that you’ve been told that you have 30 minutes to present an idea to senior management for approval. The meeting will be to 5 people in an Executive VP’s office at 3 pm. By 3:30, you need to be out of there.

So you think your presentation can be 30 minutes long? Think again!

You can’t walk in until 3 pm because that’s when you’ve been invited. You have to assume your EVP has something else going on before then. Then you need to set up your projector and computer and say hello to everyone. 5 minutes gone.

Your idea will evoke lots of questions. Your EVP is no pushover and will challenge your proposal. You need to leave 10 minutes for questions and answers. 10 minutes gone.

After the Q&A, you may need to ask for approval, get a Yes (hopefully) or request for more information. You need to say thank you and pack up your laptop and projector.  5 minutes gone.

  • Set up and pleasantries: 5 minutes
  • Q&A: 10 minutes
  • Close and pack up: 5 minutes

Total: 20 minutes

How much time does that give you to present?

10 minutes!

5. Write out your talk

Now that you know how long you have to speak, write out your talk, including your opening and your closing.

There are two ways to write out your presentation’s content:

  • If you’re naturally a good speaker and can easily create smooth sentences from notes, without stumbling and searching for words, then you can write out notes rather than full sentences.
  • If you struggle with speaking smooth sentences and need to work on your phrasing and wording, write out full sentences. You won’t be reading from this paper when you present and you won’t memorize your talk.

Work on your organization and logic. Spend extra time on the all-important opening and closing.

6.  Get the supporting data you’ll need and incorporate it into your talk

You may find yourself doing this step with the previous step, but it’s better to focus on your organization when you write and add the supporting data later. Supporting data can be complex and can distract you from the basics of your message; you can easily start rambling.

7. Speak out your talk; record and time it

Set up an audio recorder, whether on your computer or with a separate device. Write down the starting time and start speaking out your presentation. Pretend that you are in front of your audience. Don’t rush; remember it’s easy to go too fast when you’re reading. Write down the ending time.

8. Listen and edit

Check how long the talk took. If it’s too long, you’ll have to cut. If it’s too short, you may need to add material. (You don’t always HAVE to take up your full time!) Listen to the recording and write down notes on your script as you go. Stop and start as necessary so you have time to make those notes. Ask yourself:

  • Does the presentation sound convincing?
  • Does it sound smooth and professional?
  • Did I leave anything important out?
  • Did I stray off my points?
  • Will this meet the wants/needs of the audience?
  • What would I think if I were in the audience? As Nancy Duarte says, “Never give a presentation that you wouldn’t want to sit through.”

If you think you need to make lots of changes, considering re-recording your presentation to get a better result.

9. Storyboard your presentation

I have a storyboarding form in my Outstanding Presentations Self-Study course, but you can create your own. A storyboard is a bunch of boxes, each representing a slide. I recommend doing this with pencil and paper, so that you can sketch out ideas for visuals.

Use the Tell ‘n’ ShowSM Method. Don’t worry how many slides you create, just write each new concept or thought as the title of a new slide. Then sketch out a visual that will show your point. The purpose of a visual is to help your audience understand and remember your point, and often to help persuade as well. Graphs, diagrams, and photos are essential for this purpose. All-text slides will hinder your audience from understanding and remembering what you say; they aren’t very persuasive either, according to research.

10. Get approval from your boss

Do you need to get approval from your boss before presenting? Do so before you spend hours on your slides. Show him or her your storyboard and overview form. Make any changes required before going on.

Have you noticed that you haven’t opened PowerPoint yet?

11. Open PowerPoint and create your title slide

Write a title that will interest your audience to hear more.

12. Create the rest of your slides using the Tell ‘n’ ShowSM Method

You will be amazed at how quickly you create your slides when you have your storyboard to follow. You will save LOTS of time.

13. Put the text of your notes in the Notes pane and print out Notes pages

You’ll use these notes for practicing. If you feel you need notes to present with, create a condensed version, not in full sentences, so you won’t be tempted to read. (BORING!!)

14. Do your 1st practice in front of the computer

This is easiest for your first run-through with your slides. You’ll feel comfortable, too. You’ll notice that changes need to be made; perhaps the slides don’t work in one place and the script needs changing in another. Make those changes so you can go through the presentation smoothly.

15. Do your 2nd practice standing up and get feedback from colleagues, if possible

This practice is a little more formal and getting feedback is SO important. Ask your initial audience what they understood. Did they remember your key points. Were they persuaded? Try to get honest feedback. (“Tell me at least one good thing and one bad thing.”)

16. Do a 3rd practice in the final location with a projector, if possible

This is your dress rehearsal. Practice until you think you’re ready for the big day!

There’s more to the story!

What else could there be?

  1. How to schedule your planning so you never have to give a presentation unprepared
  2. How to write and order your content so that it’s clear and persuasive
  3. How to find visuals that help your audience understand and remember your presentation–and where!
  4. 3 forms that you can download to help you prepare
  5. What essential elements should be included in your opening and closing
  6. The 3 stages of a persuasive presentation

and more!

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