Preparing for a Presentation Begins Earlier Than You Think

In popular forums like the Q&A site Quora one question that appears regularly is How do you prepare for a presentation?

Quite what they are looking for I am not always certain, but when people write that they need help preparing for a presentation coming up in a day or two I realize that many people are leaving the preparation until it is too late. But while it might be late for this time it's probably a good idea to start sooner the next time you need to create a presentation.

Assuming that you do have enough time, how exactly can you prepare more effectively for a presentation if you have the basic speaking skills mastered already? There are two key areas where many people could usefully apply more effort -- and they need to start earlier to be most effective.

Consider the influencing context. One very common mistake is to focus simply on making slides and practicing what to say, without considering the context of the presentation. The classic Hollywood-style business presentation is always something that comes as a surprise to the audience but miraculously convinces everyone the moment they see it. Reality is very different and to influence people the presentation is just a small part of the process. What works better is to talk to stakeholders about your ideas in advance of the presentation. This prepares people to accept your ideas -- people usually don't like an idea the first time they see it -- and it also lets you test your content. Talk to others about the ideas you plan to put in the presentation and you will soon identify weaknesses, mistakes and flaws. With the benefit of this information you can refine your presentation to make it more effective. After the presentation you also need to followup with stakeholders to make sure that they understood your message and to address any doubts that they might still have.

Focusing on the message. But to do this you need to have a clearly defined message and this is the other part of the preparation that people often skip over. Most people spend too much of their preparation time creating a slide deck, looking for images or even -- very unwisely -- tacky animations. They should instead be dedicating more time to deciding what the overall message is and the points to be covered. In an ideal world you should be able to create, learn and deliver a spoken version of your presentation that contains this information. Later you can illustrate it with slides, which should support rather than replace the talk. This approach makes the presentation stronger because it clarifies the key ideas. It is also very useful for helping to remember what to say and helps when you get lost.
While speaking and presenting are essential tools for influencing other people the presentation alone is not enough to convince people. To be an effective speaker you need to be a good speaker, but at the same time you need to have a well-filled influencing toolbox.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about speaking, presenting and influencing skills you can contact Andrew Hennigan on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com.


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