How to Prepare For a Presentation
So you’ve been called on by a senior manager to deliver a presentation to the company’s Board of Directors at their next meeting. You’re no stranger to public speaking; you frequently lead team meetings and make presentations to senior staff several times a year. But we’re talking about the Board of Directors here! The last thing you want is to look like anything but a seasoned pro.
Here’s something you might not realize: The one thing every good speaker does to prepare for any presentation is… Practice. Yes, even the pros. There’s no greater tool for improving your public speaking skills than practicing them out loud, and the reason is simple—no two speaking engagements are exactly the same. Even if you are delivering the same presentation over and over again, there are variables that will always change, the single biggest one being your audience.
Aside from ensuring you are well versed on the material you are delivering, practicing ahead of time can iron out other issues that may potentially crop up unexpectedly. Here are a few things you should pay attention to (and perfect!) while you’re practicing:
Whether you’re delivering a keynote address or meeting with a potential client, you are working on a time limit. You can only engage someone (or a group) for so long before their attention span starts to wane, so make sure your presentation is concise. Set a timer and make sure your presentation doesn’t go over. If it does, you need to trim. No one wants to sit through a long-winded, rambling presentation.
Mind Your Equipment
Does your presentation require visual aids or some other form of support (such as a PowerPoint presentation)? When you are practicing your presentation, make sure you do so out loud using any equipment you will have set up. We’ve all been caught at those events where “technical difficulties” with a projector or some other piece of equipment has left the audience restless. This is a good time to work out any bugs with your equipment and ensure your PowerPoint slides are in order.
By practicing out loud, you will be able to identify where natural breaks need to be in your presentation. A well-delivered speech is one that is given at the appropriate speed and with proper breathing. Remember, too, that you want to create organic pauses to allow for proper transitions. Be mindful of your breathing, especially if you are nervous. It can be useful in pacing you so you don’t speed through your talk.
Take Out the Trash
Nothing makes you look more nervous, inexperienced, and ill-prepared than standing in front of a group and stammering. By practicing your presentation over and over (and over!) again, you will begin to memorize the presentation’s progression, which will in turn eliminate a lot of the uhm’s and uh’s you may inadvertently insert into your speech when you are trying to recall what comes next.
There are a lot of other things you should be mindful of as you practice, such as volume, body language, and posture. Use every presentation as a learning experience for the next—and never stop practicing!