I’ve obviously presented and watched a lot of presentations (and every episode of Shank Tank). Based on my rough estimation, I did over 1,000 presentations during my 5-year tenure at the zoo and I’ve coached hundreds of presentations since starting Speak Simple. The key to a great presentation is proper preparation and you owe it to your audience to come prepared. They give up a lot to see you present; specifically their time, which they can never get back. Also, I find that preparation can cure 80% of stage fright. So you’re probably wondering, what do you mean “proper preparation”? Do you have a presentation checklist I can follow? Yes.
Your presentation checklist:
- Presentation Logistics – Ask the event organizer (or prospective client if a bid presentation) about the time you’ll be speaking (start time & allotted time slot), where you’ll be speaking (building location and room layout), who you’ll be speaking to (demographics, education, profession, etc.), and why you’re speaking (what are your audience members’ goals).
- Presentation Strategy & Goals – Use the information you gathered from your event organizer and make a strategy for your presentation. Determine how long you will talk and how much time you’ll leave for Q&A (Questions & Answers), where you’ll stand, and your audience’s understanding of the topic so you can set a foundation and build on it. Think what you want your audience to take away from your presentation; this is your presentation goal. Your goal should not be to win a client; instead, it should be to educate a prospective client about your topic so well that you position yourself as the go-to expert on that subject matter. This goal may also become your presentation thesis.
- Brainstorm Your Presentation – Write down everything you can speak about on your presentation topic. Build out supporting information for your presentation thesis based on what you want your audience to learn. You can brainstorm on a piece of paper, whiteboard, or make an outline in Evernote. I prefer using notecards. I write one thought per notecard because I can easily rearrange them, remove the thoughts that don’t fit this presentation, and create a logical order (my outline) quickly.
- Outline Your Presentation – Take your three main points that fit your presentation goal, tweak your presentation thesis, and make an outline for your entire presentation. You don’t want to script your presentation because it will sound rehearsed and it is nearly impossible to memorize anyway. (Read my post on never scripting your presentation.)
- Walkthrough Your Presentation – Take your outline and do a walk-through to get a feel for the content, flow, and organization. If your transitions from one thought to another do not flow smoothly, try rearranging the order or removing/adding some content to create a better bridge from one thought to another. Continue to tweak your outline and know that your phrasing will sound different each time you go through your presentation, that is not only normal, but great because you’ll continually improve how you share your thoughts.
- Create Your Visual Aid – If you’re using a visual aid like Powerpoint or Prezi, take your outline and break it into slides. Use your visual aid as visual thumbnails to jog your memory and don’t put everything in bulleted lists and read it. (Wondering if you need a visual aid; I help you answer that question in last week’s blog post.)
- Practice Your Presentation – Practice your presentation using your visual aid and outline. Start weening yourself off the outline more and more each time you go through it until you’re comfortable speaking without it. (Holding an outline or script inhibits engagement with your audience.)
- Do a Presentation Dress Rehearsal – Do a formal run-through of your presentation as if it were the real thing including what you plan on wearing (especially for female presenters). This last run-through ensures you’re outfit works with your hand gestures, props, visual aid, and lavaliere microphone. It also makes your more comfortable because the real presentation won’t feel new.
Don’t worry if you feel a little flat during this run-through; that is normal and why you still want that last 20% of anxiety to give your presentation some energy.
Once you go through each step of this presentation checklist, you’re ready for showtime! Go enjoy your presentation knowing that you’re fully prepared.
After your presentation, I suggest doing a debrief of what goes well and what you can improve on. You can do this yourself, or with a respective colleague. Keep in mind that a debrief is about continually improving, including how you prepare for a presentation. Don’t sweat the small things because most likely, your audience didn’t notice those things anyway because they don’t know what was supposed to happen.
Now you’re probably thinking that this presentation checklist is great, but also wondering how much time you should spend on each stage of preparation. Well, that really depends on a lot of factors including the allotted time to present, how well you know the information, and how many times have you presented this presentation (or similar topic) before. Generally, I suggest a 10:1 ratio, meaning you’d spend 10 hours preparing for a 1-hour presentation. If you think about all the stages I listed above in the presentation checklist: strategy, outline, practice, & debrief, it isn’t unthinkable to suggest a 10x multiple. I suggest reviewing my breakdown in a previous post – How Much Time Should I Spend Preparing for a Presentation? The Presentation Time Breakdown.
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How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being a good presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.