Can you name the 3 most important things when giving any presentation?
Number 1 is . . . preparation
Number 2 is . . . preparation
Number 3 is . . . preparation
Preparation is everything.
With good preparation and planning you will be totally confident and less nervous. And your audience will feel your confidence. Your audience, too, will be confident. They will be confident in you. And this will give you control. Control of your audience and of your presentation. With control, you will be 'in charge' and your audience will listen positively to your message.
Before you start to prepare a presentation, you should ask yourself: "Why am I making this presentation?" Do you need to inform, to persuade, to train or to sell? Your objective should be clear in your mind. If it is not clear in your mind, it cannot possibly be clear to your audience.
"Who am I making this presentation to?" Sometimes this will be obvious, but not always. You should try to inform yourself. How many people? Who are they? Business people? Professional people? Political people? Experts or non-experts? Will it be a small, intimate group of 4 colleagues or a large gathering of 400 competitors? How much do they know already and what will they expect from you?
"Where am I making this presentation?" In a small hotel meeting-room or a large conference hall? What facilities and equipment are available? What are the seating arrangements?
Time and length
"When am I making this presentation and how long will it be?" Will it be 5 minutes or 1 hour? Just before lunch, when your audience will be hungry, or just after lunch, when your audience will be sleepy?
How should I make this presentation?" What approach should you use? Formal or informal? Lots of visual aids or only a few? Will you include some anecdotes and humour for variety?
"What should I say?" Now you must decide exactly what you want to say. First, you should brainstorm your ideas. You will no doubt discover many ideas that you want to include in your presentation. But you must be selective. You should include only information that is relevant to your audience and your objective. You should exclude all other ideas. You also need to create a title for your presentation (if you have not already been given a title). The title will help you to focus on the subject. And you will prepare your visual aids, if you have decided to use them. But remember, in general, less is better than more (a little is better than a lot). You can always give additional information during the questions after the presentation.
A well organised presentation with a clear structure is easier for the audience to follow. It is therefore more effective. You should organise the points you wish to make in a logical order. Most presentations are organised in three parts, followed by questions:
|welcome your audience
introduce your subject
explain the structure of your presentation
explain rules for questions
|present the subject itself|
|summarise your presentation
thank your audience
|Questions and Answers|
When you give your presentation, you should be - or appear to be - as spontaneous as possible. You should not read your presentation! You should be so familiar with your subject and with the information that you want to deliver that you do not need to read a text. Reading a text is boring! Reading a text will make your audience go to sleep! So if you don't have a text to read, how can you remember to say everything you need to say? With notes. You can create your own system of notes. Some people make notes on small, A6 cards. Some people write down just the title of each section of their talk. Some people write down keywords to remind them. The notes will give you confidence, but because you will have prepared your presentation fully, you may not even need them!
Rehearsal is a vital part of preparation. You should leave time to practise your presentation two or three times. This will have the following benefits:
- you will become more familiar with what you want to say
- you will identify weaknesses in your presentation
- you will be able to practise difficult pronunciations
- you will be able to check the time that your presentation takes and make any necessary modifications
So prepare, prepare, prepare! Prepare everything: words, visual aids, timing, equipment. Rehearse your presentation several times and time it. Is it the right length? Are you completely familiar with all your illustrations? Are they in the right order? Do you know who the audience is? How many people? How will you answer difficult questions? Do you know the room? Are you confident about the equipment? When you have answered all these questions, you will be a confident, enthusiastic presenter ready to communicate the subject of your presentation to an eager audience.