I regularly write about presentation best practices, especially when it comes to preparing your presentation. Occasionally I’m asked about the worst tips or advice I’ve heard; this sometimes gets comical like the suggestion to bite your tongue before you go on stage to relieve anxiety. (Seriously, someone told me that one and I fear it will only hurt. Instead, try clenching your first to burn off some of those endorphins your nervous send out to your body.) Usually, these bad tips fall into misconstrued myths and are not really poor advice (let’s hope that is the case). However, I have seen a lot of bad presentations, and usually, it stems from poor preparation, so I thought I’d share the worst ways to prepare for a presentation.
3 Absolute Worst Ways to Prepare for a Presentation
- Start By “Bulleting Out” a Presentation in PowerPoint – No, I don’t hate PowerPoint (I do prefer it over Prezi or Keynote). A presenter needs to have a good idea of what the presentation will look like before starting on the visual aid (e.g. PowerPoint). Even worse than starting with the visual aid is bulleting out your script in PowerPoint. It makes you a lazy presenter and annoys your audience because they can read the slides faster than you can say them. Reading your slides means you’re either interrupting your audience while they are reading or you are useless because they can read everything for themselves.
If you even need a visual aid (see Do I Need a Visual Aid or Not?), I suggest not starting on the PowerPoint until you’ve walked through your presentation a few times and have your order in place and time in check. Otherwise, when you create your PowerPoint too soon, you have to make a lot of changes, which takes more time than preparing properly in the first place.
- Script Your Presentation Word-for-Word – When you script your presentation, you put too much undue pressure on yourself to remember everything you want to say and you come across to the audience as being fake, like you’re acting. [Hence why I say public speaking is not similar to acting.] The other challenge with scripting your presentation is if you miss a line, you tend to skip over entire chunks of your message.
Also, when scripting your presentation, you practice memorizing the words and your wording doesn’t evolve through each practice runs and in your rehearsals. Presenters that script a presentation also tend to not customize their presentation for the audience. Great speakers will adjust their message and tailor it for each audience. [These variations also keep speakers from getting bored.]
- Preparing Your Presentation Last Minute – I once attended a presentation at 8:30 in the morning and overheard that the presenter created it that morning due to being busy. His lack of preparation showed to the audience because his slides were out of order forcing him to bounce around, he fumbled for his words throughout, and said more crutch words (um, so, you know) than usual. Not preparing accordingly is disrespectful to your audience. Your audience gives up their time to attend your presentation and you owe it to them to prepare properly.
I know it takes time to develop a great presentation and that we’re all busy. You don’t have to spend huge chunks of time presenting because the mind will continue to think about your presentation even when you’re not working on it. Start by brainstorming your ideas and craft your thesis, later develop your outline and the order of your presentation. Walk through your presentation, then develop your visual aid, and practice it until you’re comfortable with it. Don’t forget to do a dress rehearsal too. This gives your brain the time it needs to think, refine your wording, and to make adjustments even when you’re not working on your presentation, such as when driving or in the shower. Over time, you’ll get much faster at preparing the more you present.
Remember, most presenters can’t “wing” a great presentation, it takes time to develop and refine. Give your audience what they want and be respectful of their time, because the presentation is about them after all, not you.
Even if you’re a good presenter mechanically (the delivery aspect of presenting), audiences will know when your message is off which makes your presentation a failure in the end.
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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 an excellent 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.