How to Prepare to Present

Everyone has jitters. You aren’t alone. I haven’t met a presenter who didn’t. However, the more you present, the easier it is for most. You will mess up. You’ll omit, forget, and ramble. It’s no big deal, unless you make it one. Your audience doesn’t know, so don’t tell them. Don’t apologize for your mistakes. Take deep breaths and look toward the audience — even if it’s a spot on the wall, and smile.

If you’re prepared and you take the time to practice, presenting can be a fun, rewarding, and fulfilling experience. It’s a proven sales and marketing tool. And if you really want to learn a subject — present it. I promise you’ll gain more than your audience.

Nothing Beats Preparation

Outline the presentation — Although it can be done, I’d advise against writing your presentation word for word. This adds a level of difficulty, and often comes off stiff and phony. Make an outline, bullet the key points, and add thoughts.

Avoid a boring lecture — Ask questions throughout your presentation. How can more questions be added? Review every statement, and ask if it would improve the presentation if re-written as a question. Use open-ended questions — who, what, when, and how to solicit more than yes and no answers. Walk the room before the presentation, ask questions, and consider whom to call on – who has the answer?

Tell stories — Give examples, personal experiences, and third party stories. Stories can add credibility and help define your subject. Should you tell humorous stories? You can, but you don’t have to tell jokes, unless it’s appropriate, and you’re good at.

Use multimedia — Grab as many of your audience’s senses as you can. Have something to put in their hand, such as a brochure, or give them a fill in the blank sheet or action plan, and use Prezi or PowerPoint.

Practice, Practice, Practice, Practice, Practice — then practice some more. I can’t say it enough. The best way to overcome fear of failure is preparation. Don’t only practice until you get it right — practice until you can’t get it wrong.

I’ve been asked how I prepare myself immediately before I present. Do I listen to certain music, meditate, or have a cocktail? I’ve tried all three, but what works best is to rehearse my opening on the way to the presentation, arrive early, and meet the audience. If you’re prepared and comfortable with your audience, you’ll do well. Do you give presentations? How do you prepare?

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