Preparing a Presentation
In writing a speech, you have only two objectives …
- Making a good impression and,
- Leaving your audience with two or three takeaways.
The rest is just entertainment.
Your presentation is NOT what you put on screen – it is what you say and how you say it!
How can you ensure you make these crucial objectives?
What is the reason for the presentation?
What is the intended outcome?
Who is the audience?
What style are you going to use?
Write the words!
- What is the opening statement?
- What are the key messages – no more than 3!
- How will you close?
Practice out loud!
Consider visual support material:
- Do you need PowerPoint slides, handouts, props?
- Note: the slides are support material – they are NOT the presentation
Create your visual support material!
- If using slides, who will change them?
- If someone else manages the slides you are free to ‘present’
- Out loud – to an audience
- With visuals, if being used.
- Do NOT look at your slides – do not turn your back on your audience!
- Do NOT read your slides – it makes you look unprepared!
Never start your speech or presentation with an apology (“I have a cold, I’m not feeling well, I was just invited to speak a few hours ago, the dog ate my homework”). This puts your audience on edge, making them worry that you’re going to lose it!
More 'Hot Tips'
It can be more challenging to deliver an impactful lightning talk than a 20-minute presentation, says Paul Charlton, a science-communication instructor at the German Center for Infection Research in Munich.
A lot can go wrong in those few minutes, but great things can happen, too. “Whatever you do in the time you have, do it well,” he says.
And even though the talks are short, the stakes can still be high. “You never know who’s in the room, so you should always strive to make a good impression,” Charlton says. “You’ll be surprised how much return you can get on that investment.”
Here are some of his tips for a successful lightning talk:
Start strong. In the first few sentences, the audience should know why they need to pay attention. You have a fraction of your alloted minutes to establish credibility.
Tell a story. Whether a talk is one minute long or 20, it should be framed by a basic narrative. Start with a research question and follow up with experimental methods and results: the credibility that you established at the outset will build, and the audience can actually learn something.
Pace yourself. It’s normal to speak quickly when the clock is ticking, but that isn’t the best way to convey complicated scientific concepts. Don’t try to fit in more words per minute; instead, find words and images that really matter.
Keep slides simple. Some lightning speakers try to cram many concepts into each slide, but that’s a mistake. Images should be as economical as words, holding just enough information to make important points without visual overload.
Practise. Don’t follow a script, but you should practise your talk enough to know where you’re going and how long it takes to get there.
Seek honest feedback. After a practice talk, or even the real thing, ask an audience member — perhaps one who was asking the tough questions — to provide feedback.
Know your audience. Lightning talks are by necessity focused, but if they’re for a general audience, you might need to spend a few moments setting the stage. Even with an expert audience, don’t assume that they’ll pick up on the importance of your work; tell them why it matters.
Put away the laser pointer. You don’t have time to practise your aim. The important parts should already be highlighted — no pointer required.
Sum up. Your final words should recap the things the audience must take away.
Present Your Data Effectively
While a good presentation often includes data, data alone doesn’t guarantee a good presentation. To avoid confusing your audience, keep it simple. Ask yourself, “What’s the single most important learning I want my audience to extract from this data?” Next, make sure your charts are readable. What’s discernible on your laptop may be far less so when projected on a screen. Rehearse your presentation with colleagues sitting as far away — where the actual audience will sit. If they can’t see your charts clearly, redesign them to be easier on the eyes.
Also, clarity is crucial. Use precise language to identify X and Y axes, pie pieces, bars, and other chart elements. Try to avoid abbreviations that aren’t obvious, and don’t assume people will remember the labels on previous slides. Last, avoid generic titles. For example, instead of “Millennial Preferences,” try a more specific title like “Millennials Prefer Mobile.” This is the first element the audience will notice and process, so it pays to get it right.
Harvard Business Review – Management Tip of the Day
Adapted from “ ” by Joel Schwartzberg
You Can’t Over Prepare for a Presentation
Writing a speech or presentation is challenging, and memorizing it takes even more time and effort. But whether you’re speaking at a conference, setting a direction for your team, or persuading upper management to greenlight an idea, it’s important to know your presentation cold. Transitions can be especially tricky, so break your talk into sections and rehearse the shifts between the sections. Note any troublesome segues and practice them repeatedly. Then, spend time each day memorizing your speech. You might consider recording and listening to it whenever you’re driving, exercising, or running errands. Or you can rehearse a portion of your script right before bedtime or multitask as you brush your teeth. Finally, have a plan for any slip-ups. Prepare two or three go-to phrases, such as, “Let me refer to my notes,” or “I’m struggling to remember my next point. Let me take a moment and step back.” The lapse will be less awkward for everyone when you don’t panic and do what you need to move on.
Harvard Business Review – Management Tip of the Day
Adapted from “Don’t Just Memorize Your Next Presentation — Know It Cold” by Sabina Nawaz
Nervous During Presentations? Reframe How You Think of Them
When you get anxious during a presentation, focusing on your feelings will only make things worse. Research shows that being kind and generous reduces our stress levels, so fight your nerves by thinking of your talk as an act of kindness: You’re sharing something valuable with other people. Use this framing when you’re preparing the presentation. Rather than starting with your topic, start with some reflection. Ask yourself, Who will be in the room? What do they need from me? Then craft a presentation that directly addresses those needs. On the day of your talk, when you’re extra nervous, take slow, deep breaths and remind yourself that you are here to help your listeners. And then during the presentation, connect with your audience by making eye contact — even if you’d rather do anything else. Pretend you’re having a series of one-on-one conversations, providing each person with the information they need. This generosity mindset can turn a painful experience into one of giving.
Harvard Business Review – Management Tip of the Day
Adapted from “To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, Stop Thinking About Yourself,” by Sarah Gershman
You Aren’t Rehearsing Enough for Your Presentations
Before a critical presentation, the best thing you can do is rehearse — a lot. That doesn’t mean you need to memorize every line (which will make you sound too rehearsed). Your goal should be to feel confident in what you’re saying while leaving room for spontaneity. Spend extra time on the beginning and the end of your talk, including your first and last slides. The introduction sets the stage for your message and gives your audience a reason to care. Your conclusion determines which ideas people will walk away with. If you nail these two sections of the talk, you’ll probably do well no matter what happens. You should also repeatedly practice any sections that have complex or technical content. While you rehearse, consider recording yourself on your phone; play it back to watch for distracting habits (fidgeting, avoiding eye contact) and areas where you seem unsure of yourself. Rehearse those sections a few more times.
When you need to sell an idea at work or in a presentation, how do you do it? Five rhetorical devices can help — Aristotle identified them 2,000 years ago, and masters of persuasion still use them today:
- Ethos. Start your talk by establishing your credibility and character. Show your audience that you are committed to the welfare of others, and you will gain their trust.
- Logos. Use data, evidence, and facts to support your pitch.
- Pathos. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Wrap your big idea in a story that will elicit an emotional reaction.
- Metaphor. Compare your idea to something that is familiar to your audience. It will help you clarify your argument by making the abstract concrete.
- Brevity. Explain your idea in as few words as possible. People have a limited attention span, so talk about your strongest points first.
This tip is adapted from “The Art of Persuasion Hasn’t Changed in 2,000 Years,” by Carmine Gallo
Harvard Business Review
More than just talking:
Katie Karlovitz on why you should approach public speaking as ‘show time’
Before delivering a speech, what do you do to prepare? Though it is important to fine tune the content of your message, it is just one of many things you should think about prior to speaking. In an interview with IABC, Katie Karlovitz, a public speaking coach for the consultancy On Speaking Terms, recommends approaching your presentation with the entire picture in mind.
To help you deliver a presentation that hits all of the marks, Karlovitz shared a snapshot of what her pre-presentation routine looks like:
1. Prepare and rehearse your content: “Never read off of your slides,” Karlovitz shares, “That is the kiss of death.”
2. Check your wardrobe: Make sure your outfit is ready the night before. Warns Karlovitz: “Your choice of wardrobe will be sending a message before you can say anything.” She recommends wearing a power color (like red) that will help you stand out, and shoes that will help empower you but still make you feel grounded.
3. Fuel up: Eat a good breakfast—but nothing too heavy if your presentation is first thing in the morning, says Karlovitz. And cut back on caffeine, which can mix with your pre-speech adrenaline, she warns.
4. Brush and floss your teeth: This isn’t just about good dental hygiene. “Those are your articulators—your lips, your teeth and your tongue—so you want to make sure that you awaken your mouth.”
5. Get familiarized with the space early on: Make sure you know exactly what your set-up will look like before it’s time to speak. Karlovitz recommends that if you can’t scope out the place early on, at least ask for pictures so you have a visual of what to expect.
“I liken this technique to being an actor on stage,” she shares. “This is more like a performance than it is just talking, so you want to be as ready as that.”
What are the top three qualities of an effective speaker? Listen to the complete IABC interview to find out.
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