To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. Great presentations require much preparation. A good presentation starts out with introductions and an icebreaker such as a story, interesting statement or fact, joke, quotation, or an activity to get the group warmed up. The introduction also needs an objective, that is, the purpose or goal of the presentation. This not only tells you what you will talk about, but it also informs the audience of the purpose of the presentation.
Next, is the body of the presentation. Do NOT write it out word for word. All you want is an outline. By jotting down the main points on a set of index cards, you not only have your outline, but also a memory jogger for the actual presentation. To prepare the presentation, ask yourself the following:
1) What is the purpose of you making this presentation?
2) Who will be attending?
3) Does the audience already know about the subject? If so how much do they know?
4) What do you think will be the audience’s attitude towards you (e.g. hostile, friendly)?
As a guide, a 45 minutes presentation should have no more than about five main points. This may not seem like very many, but if you are to leave the audience with a clear picture of what you have said, you cannot expect them to remember much more than that. There are several options for structuring the presentation:
o Timeline: points that are arranged in sequential order.
o Climax: The main points are presented in increasing order of importance.
o Problem/Solution: A problem is presented and you offer a suggested solution while also mentioning the benefits that come with it.
o Classification: You can classify and present important items as major points in the presentation.
o Simple to complex: Points are listed from the simplest to the most complex. Can also be done in reverse order.
You want to include some visual information that will help the audience understand your presentation such as putting out charts, graphs, slides, handouts, etc.
After the body, comes the closing. This is where you ask for questions, provide a wrap-up (summary), and thank the participants for attending.
And finally, the important part – practice, practice, practice. The main purpose of creating an outline is to develop a coherent plan of what you want to talk about. You should know your presentation so well, that during the actual presentation, you should only have to briefly glance at your notes to ensure you are staying on track. Your practice session should include a “live” session by practicing in front of coworkers, family, or friends (or Devil Advocates as I call them in my ebook). They can be valuable at providing feedback and it gives you a chance to practice controlling your nerves. Another great feedback technique is to make a video or audio tape of your presentation and review it critically with a colleague.