How to prepare for a presentation?

“I need at least three weeks to prepare for a speech so that I can improvise freely” Mark Twain

A presentation can be an unforgettable experience for the audience or another boring presentation that they will quickly forget about. One of the aspects differentiating the two situations is preparation. The speech plan, memorizing certain elements and a lot of training will give us confidence on stage, and also give us a chance to think and design what we want to say.

Due to the fact that talking is a natural activity – we communicate when buying rolls in the store, greeting a neighbor or talking to a friend. So you can fall into the trap of thinking that the presentation should also be fully improvised and unprepared, because somehow it will be, since everyone is talking. There are a handful of people who can give amazing speeches without a detailed plan, but even Steve Jobs spent weeks preparing for his famous presentations.

1. Who is your audience for the presentation? What characterizes your listeners?

If possible, check who your target group is – what their profession is, how old are they, what can be useful from their point of view. This matters because you can tailor the language and form of speech to your audience. We will speak differently to teenagers than to specialists in the pharmaceutical industry. When speaking at an industry conference, you can confidently use a specialized language, but when speaking to people who are not related to your industry, it is worth avoiding abbreviations and industry jargon. They will be incomprehensible to them and may cause frustration.

2. Where will you be speaking?

The dimensions of the stage, the light, the type of microphone or the size of the audience are the information that is worth asking the organizers. With this information, you can prepare yourself physically and mentally for specific conditions.

3. Public speaking plan

Write a plan of the most important thoughts in the subsections. It is good practice to write down entire sentences, data you want to use, anecdotes or quotes. The best way to do this is to write down the entire speech and look at the proportions of individual elements, the strength of the arguments, whether the content is interesting and suspenseful, and whether it is tailored to the audience. You have two options, either to memorize these points or to write down a speech plan in points and hold it in your hand or on a podium. In the case of business speeches, you will be more professional if you do not have cards with you on stage. Good preparation is a gift to the audience and a sign of respect for those who took the time to listen to you.

4. The beginning and the end

In the moment of the greatest stress, the first minute or two, it is good to have a well-practised introduction. It’s best to memorize it. How we start affects the first impression we make. The end, in turn, is what we leave our audience with.

5. Training makes perfect

Exercise is a very important part of preparation. You can start by talking to yourself in front of the mirror, then to your dog, family members, friends or train in front of colleagues. If you devote the right amount of time to training, it will be an investment with a high rate of return. Another option is to exercise under the supervision of a trainer who will give you feedback and guide you. If you want to work with me click here.

6. Unexpected questions

Many people lose sleep over questions that may be asked of them during their presentations. Improvisation is something that can be practiced, which you can read about here. Make a list of potential questions and objections, and then prepare the answers to them.

7. Record yourself

For recording, you can use the voice recorder from the phone or one of the applications, for example Zoom, in which you can record on the camera from the computer. This can be good material for your own work. After each viewing, evaluate the elements that need improvement and then practice them. Repeat these steps until a satisfactory result is obtained.

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