No one wants to hear the word preparation.
It sounds like a lot of hard work, right?
Actually, the way most people “prepare” to deliver a business presentation is hard work.
It’s hard work because most people do it wrong.
Think about the situation. You are at work and your boss asks you to do a presentation at next Monday’s meeting about the project you’re working on.
Most people will do one of two things:
Instantly load up PowerPoint and start writing endless bullet points on endless amounts of slides
– or –
Write out the presentation word for word and try to memorize the entire thing
Both strategies are a huge time suck and very inefficient ways of preparing for an engaging presentation.
If you put endless bullet points on your slides the strong likelihood is that you will spend most of your presentation time reading those bullet points to the audience.
If you write out your presentation word for word you’ll probably spend most of the time trying to remember exactly what you wrote down, delivering what you can remember in a flat or embarrassed way.
On top of being a huge time suck the above two methods can also lead to a lot of additional stress prior to and during delivery of your presentation.
So what is the alternative?
The alternative is to prepare to deliver your presentation as the SME (subject matter expert).
There is a reason your boss asked you to deliver the presentation; there is a reason the leader of your social group asked you to speak publicly about your fundraising activities; there is a reason your colleagues nominated you to address the executive management team about your team’s progress…
…you have been identified as the subject matter expert!
The SME is the best or most-qualified person to talk about a particular topic. The best person to introduce the iPhone back in 2007 was Steve Jobs. He was the SME. He knew the iPhone inside out.
When you are preparing for your presentation you should always prepare as the subject matter expert.
The general flow that I use when preparing for a presentation is as follows:
- Outline and develop my presentation
- Create slide deck in PowerPoint/Keynote
- Rehearse with slide deck
Notice where PowerPoint is in the process? Number 3. Not number 1!
If we start by creating our slides first we lock ourselves in to a particular flow of presentation delivery. We don’t give ourselves room to move or change “because we’ve already created the slides!”
STEP 1 – OUTLINE AND DEVELOP
UNDERSTAND YOUR TOPIC
If you have been asked to deliver a presentation on a particular topic there’s a strong chance it is because you are the subject matter expert. Therefore you will have a good understanding of your topic.
If you find yourself in the situation where you are not the subject matter expert (maybe your boss has asked you to do a talk in his or her absence) then you need to ensure you have a good understanding of the topic before you go any further.
Why is it so important to understand the topic? If you don’t understand the topic it is very hard to deliver a fluid, engaging presentation because you will always be focused on trying to remember information. You’ll always be focused on your notes or your slides.
The best presenters talk from what they know. They talk naturally, from memory and rarely, if ever, need to rely on notes or bullet points on their slides.
Before going any further please ensure you have a full understanding of your presentation topic.
UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
The first stage of preparation should be to understand your audience.
Who are they?
Why are they going to be in attendance?
How can your frame your presentation in a way that benefits them directly?
What things are they unlikely to want to hear?
Only by considering these questions, and gearing your delivery around the answers, can you truly put together an engaging presentation.
CREATE AN OUTLINE
Stop!… Please don’t sit down and create a line-by-line description of your presentation. Writing out the steps that you’ll follow the whole way through your delivery won’t work. Writing everything line-by-line will prompt you to try to memorize your presentation.
Trying to memorize your presentation is a sure-fire way to kill your delivery.
When you write everything out line-by-line or try to memorize your presentation word-for-word you kill the natural flow of your delivery. If your delivery doesn’t come across as natural then your presentation just becomes the standard, boring presentation that your audience has no reason to care about.
Here’s how to create an effective presentation outline:
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what your presentation topic is. Write your topic down.
Your topic should be a blend of the message you want to get across, what you need the audience to do, and how it will benefit them.
Take for example a presentation about the company’s current financials. Let’s imagine the results are not great.
The topic could be, “Mid-term financials update”, or we could develop this further to be “Turning our financials around to grow the business and increase everyone’s bonus.” If you were in the audience of this presentation, which topic would you be more likely to engage with?
Below your topic create three or less subheadings. The subheadings are the points that support your topic. I recommend three points (or subtopics) maximum because more than that and your audience may struggle to remember the main points of your presentation.
Consider the sub-sub-points that will support your three subtopics and write those supporting points under each subheading.
Your results might look something like this:
- Turning our financials around to grow the business and increase everyone’s bonus
- Current status of financials
- More competition
- Flat growth
- New marketing plans
- Introduction of low-cost product
- Increased marketing exposure in similar areas to our competition
- Forecasts for the future
- Fast growth in the near term after launch of new product
- Current status of financials