The Right Way to Prepare For Your Presentation
The first thing you must do when you are preparing your presentation is step away from the computer and fully examine the purpose of your presentation.
I mean it. Step away from your desk. Go find yourself a little quiet space somewhere in the conference room or your living room or an outdoor patio. Whatever suits your fancy as long as there are no computers in sight.
Grab a pencil and a notepad. That’s all you will need for now. I will explain why in a second.
Most people miss this crucial step and go straight to creating slides. Big mistake.
Here’s the thing. Once you get in front of your computer, you go straight into production mode. You start cranking out slides and then proceed to string everything together in a coherent way.
You end up with an unstructured and unfocused presentations that looks and feels like a Frankenstein deck built with the remains of others decks and sewn together with weak arguments and half baked transitions.
You also end up sharing way too much information or the wrong kind of information and nothing frustrates audiences more than pointless, unfocused data dumps. This reflects poorly on you but most importantly it kills your presentation.
Getting clear on the purpose of your presentation is key to ensuring your presentation hits the nail on the head.
If you take the time to understand the context of your presentation, you will have an easier time developing a solid strategy for your message.
Yes, I said strategy.
Because without a strategy, all you have are random tactics and messages being thrown around in hopes that something will stick.
I call it the “hope strategy”: you throw your presentation together and hope for a positive outcome.
This may have gotten you by in the past but you and I both know you can do better.
You approach everything you do with intelligence and excellence. It’s time you started applying that mindset of excellence to your presentations.
How? By changing your approach and purposefully communicating your ideas with the end in mind.
To do this, you must think strategically and determine what your underlying message will be, how it will be delivered and what angle you will adopt for maximum persuasive impact.
And yes, this applies even to routine business communication. Just because the presentation is not high stakes doesn’t mean you are not being evaluated by your peers and leadership on your performance.
Too many of your colleagues are taking the easy “good ‘nuff” road and that’s great news for you.
Because by tweaking a few things and learning to present your ideas creatively, you will bring a welcome breath of fresh air that won’t go unnoticed.
Trust me, honing your communication chops makes you a valuable asset to any organization and gives you an unfair advantage over your peers.
It’s not a coincidence that c-suite executives also happen to be excellent communicators.
Ok, so we’ve established the need for you to examine the purpose of your presentation, right?
Now, to help you with this, I’ve compiled a list of "Primer Questions" for you to ponder before you get started.
Your answers to these questions will form the prism through which you view the rest of this planning process. Every time you have to make a crucial decision about what direction you are going with your message, circle back to these questions.
As you think about all these questions, you are starting to prime your mind to think outside the box and adopt a bird’s eye view of your presentation. You are no longer lost in the technical details of your slides.
You are starting with an aerial view of the situation which will allow you to see the distant dots, connect them better and come up with creative insights that will make your approach unique and clever.
Got it? Alright, here we go.
As you answer these questions, think about how you can use these insights to inform the content of your presentation, the structure of your story and how you will deliver the information to your audience.
1. UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT
Why are you giving this presentation? Mandatory work assignment? Voluntary or paid speaking gig? Were you invited to share your expertise at an event? Are you selling something or seeking funding? Was there an “incident” that prompted the need for this presentation?
Is this is a high stakes, high profile presentation or routine business communication?
What is your motivation for delivering an excellent presentation? Career advancement? Potential sales? Exposure? Reputation?
What relevant or critical events preceded this presentation?
Where will the document or presentation be delivered? Might the format affect the way you present your content?
What events are surrounding this presentation? (Relevant to mention or acknowledge in your presentation?)
Does the method or location of this presentation fit with its intended message?
What is the best thing that could happen as a result of this presentation? What is the worst thing that could happen if you don’t nail it?
2. DEFINING YOUR CONTENT
Are you providing information?
Are you trying to educate?
Are you making a call for action?
Are you trying to persuade others to change a perspective or firmly held belief?
Are you presenting ideas to solve or analyze a problem?
Are you inspiring others to embrace change or overcome a hurdle?
What is the end goal your presentation is supposed to achieve?
Is there a tangible action you want your presentation to trigger?
3. EVALUATING YOUR CREDIBILITY
Why are you the one giving this presentation?
Why are you competent to speak on the issue or deliver this presentation?
Where does your authority comes from? Do you need to supplement your authority by leveraging other people’s expertise? (consider inviting an expert live or via teleconference to add weight and credibility to your argument)
Do you have any opinions, biases, beliefs, values or assumptions that may skew your message or approach?
Want more presentation tips like these? Check out my book Slide Therapy.