Hours later Stella would reflect on this moment. She would wonder what led to the executives dismissing her idea. An idea designed to put more money in their pockets. An idea that could only benefit them.
Right now, Stella Pelik was nervous.
No matter how she tried to calm her nerves, the panic wouldn’t go away.
Breathing fast… Paper bag clasped close just in case.
Positive self-talk seemed to make the bad feelings worse.
It was overwhelming.
Today was make or break!
She’d spent weeks on this presentation and now it was showtime. Her opportunity to prove she was the right one for the job. She just had to get through this presentation in one piece.
This would be a massive promotion, one which Stella deserved. She was ready. She just couldn’t get over the fear of this doing this speech.
Her message was great. If she could implement her ideas, she would increase employee motivation and productivity. As a result her firm’s costs would go down and profits would go up.
“Relax.” she told herself. “Just give a clear introduction, read your bullet points, expand where necessary, and you’ll be done in no time.” But nothing could bring down her stress levels as the seconds ticked by.
A knock came at the interview room door. The president’s secretary ushered Stella from her holding room onto a makeshift stage in front of the executive management team
Stella switched on her slides and got started.
Stella’s plan wasn’t accepted. She didn’t get the promotion.
She had a great idea. What company doesn’t want to improve employee motivation and productivity? What company doesn’t want to spend less and make more money.
Trouble is, Stella’s presentation was not inspiring. It didn’t matter how great her idea was, she struggled to inspire the audience; She struggled to get the audience to listen to her.
Her plan was to read through her slides and present a logical argument to the executives. Reading bullet points and expanding on them is the death of most business presentations.
Here are the 8 essential steps for presentation success and 1 essential point to avoid.
1. Pick a destination
First step is to choose where you want the audience to go.
It’s hard to put together a convincing and engaging presentation unless you know where the audience needs to get to. Identify where this is and write it down.
2. Pick three main points
Of course you can talk about as many points as you want, but if you keep it to 3 points or less your presentation will stick in your audience’s mind better. Why? There’s less for them to remember.
3. Write a rough draft
Write a rough draft, or outline, of your presentation.
Don’t focus on trying to be perfect. What you are writing now is not how you will deliver (unless you want to sound like a robot) so just focus on creating some structure now.
Now that you have a rough draft and some structure, practice!
Practice as often as possible until you are comfortable doing your speech without notes, cue cards, or any other kind of prompt.
Once you are comfortable delivering the entire presentation without notes, record yourself on video.
It won’t be comfortable, but watch the video back and analyze your performance. Focus on the two most noticeable problem areas. For example, repeating filler words.
Practice your presentation again with a focus on eliminating/correcting the two problem areas you noticed.
6. Rinse and repeat
Repeat the analysis process with video as much as possible until you are happy with your delivery. Continue the process until you feel your delivery is “natural”.
Now it’s time to build your slides.
Create slides that are going to support what you have practiced. Use the final video as a guide for this.
At no time should the slides be taking a starring role in your presentation. You will deliver just as you practiced and the slides will be there to support you only.
8. Final practice
Now you have your slides it’s time to practice.
The final test for your presentation is to ensure your delivery doesn’t change from the final practice you did in step 6 now that you’ve added slides. If it has changed, then you need to consider if the slides are going to have a detrimental effect on your overall presentation. Consider cutting them.
The essential point to avoid in your presentation
If you’ve followed the steps up to now, you should be in a good position to deliver a strong presentation where you can connect with your audience and sell them on your idea.
It is essential, during your delivery, that you stick to what you’ve practiced. You might be tempted to try and adjust your delivery based on facial reactions or body language you receive from the audience while you’re delivering.
But don’t do it!
You don’t know what is going on in your audience’s head.
The guy who looks frustrated in the front row may have just come from a troublesome meeting with HR. The lady at the back of the room checking her watch may be wondering why her colleague hasn’t called her back yet. The man nodding off in the front row may have not gotten much sleep last night.
It can be tempting to associate their actions and body language to their feelings about your presentation. In truth, you have no idea what’s going on in their heads, so just do your best and get through your presentation as you practiced.
How do you normally prepare for your presentations? Have you had an experience like Stella? Let’s chat in the comments below.