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How to prepare for an important presentation

How to prepare for an important presentation

During our career, we will have some opportunities to take to the stage (either literally or not) and be the centre of attention. Some people love it; others run away from it for all they are worth. One thing is for sure: having an audience in front of you is certainly an opportunity (this word was not chosen and repeated by chance) that should never be wasted.

It is no use thinking: “This isn’t for me”. Well, you know what? Nobody is born a good presenter! Everybody who is at ease communicating with the public, at some time in their life, be it as a child or be it in adulthood, had something happen that helped them evolve. In truth, we are always able to learn and to improve. It’s all down to being open to it and being motivated!

If you are focused on grabbing your opportunities and growing as a communicator, and hence as a professional (and a human being!), we have some ideas we want to share with you to help you make these moments less tense and more effective.

If you master the subject at hand, nothing can go wrong

If a player walks onto the pitch thinking he/she will fail, do you know what will happen? Exactly that! The first part of your preparation should be mental: be positive. You should think about what you can gain from the presentation, and imagine yourself giving it and everything going beautifully. Positive projection is something that gives a big boost towards this actually happening.

Another point worth mentioning is that often we let something that does not go according to plan affect us. Don’t worry: whoever is on the other side will not realise, and it will not affect your performance. It is normal that the presentation will not go exactly as practised, just like it’s normal that you are a bit nervous. Accept it and control your nerves naturally.

Get the know the room and try out the devices

Our brain does not like unknown situations and tends to play tricks on us. Therefore, whenever you have an important presentation, try to get to know the venue where it will take place as soon as possible.

If it is difficult to visit it beforehand, try and find out some aspects about it, such as: “How big is the room and how is the audience distributed?”; “Where is the screen positioned and how big is it?”; “Will a microphone be necessary, either a handheld one or a lapel microphone?”; “Can you use your laptop, or will it be a different computer?”.

The answers to these questions will help you mentally prepare for what is awaiting you and help with your logistics, accordingly. It will also guide your training so that when you practise you can imagine the room and your strategy for making the right movements and taking the right positions. On the day of the meeting, get there as early as possible, test the equipment, and when possible do a final trial run in the room where your presentation will take place.

Practise, practise, practise!

Practising is essential for you to feel less nervous when it is time to face your audience. Some people claim practising a presentation too much prevents one from being natural when faced with the audience. But the two things are not related to each other. Training allows you to memorise the flow of your story, make adjustments to the quantity of information, understand the ideal time to show the slides and to minimise surprises.

There is only one truth that makes sense when it comes to training: the more you practise, the better your presentation will be, and the higher the probability of everything going as you imagined it would. You can practise on your own, but if you have the chance of presenting your talk to somebody, don’t pass it up. Your listener can give you important feedback that allows you to make adjustments that make the difference. Practising also allows you to understand if the time it takes to tell your story is as planned.

We also recommend that the second part of the training is done without using slides, or alternatively, with miniature slides. This will help you understand if you have the story memorised in your mind and how much you depend on the slides. Do a very quick summarised version of the presentation (e.g. lasting just two minutes) to make sure you have the flow of the narrative on the tip of your tongue.

Giving good presentations has several secrets: you have to understand what the storytelling is all about and the best personal communication techniques, as well as having a good grasp of notions of design and time to practise. The good news is that any person can learn. Another secret is wanting to learn and to improve, seeking specialised training in the area and dedicating time to a skill that is extremely well appreciated in the corporate world. What are you waiting for?