Whether you participate in presentations on a regular basis, like I do, or only occasionally (and under extreme duress or threat of torture), there are basic preparation steps you can take to make the experience more successful for you and your team. I can’t share all of my secrets, but here are a few:
1. Have an equipment “kit” and/or checklist. My laptop bag always contains the following:
*Flash drives or an external hard drive (have your presentation copied onto one, in case you have to make a last-minute equipment change).
*A remote to advance slides (mine also has a laser pointer). This eliminates the need for presenters to be tied to a laptop (or the need for a “driver” who has to guess when to go to the next slide). Don’t forget to check the batteries!
*Small speakers. They are so affordable now, and the many “mini” options are easily transportable. If you are going to hyperlink to any videos, or go on-line to show anything with audio, you will want to have speakers to supplement your laptop output.
*Business cards and a name badge. You’d be surprised how many people forget these basics.
2. Always have a backup plan. Things happen – LCD projectors malfunction; people get sick or miss planes; and your audience (internal or external) can behave unpredictably. Be prepared to react calmly and with a sense of humor if things don’t go according to plan.
3. Rehearse. I don’t mean memorize – the key is to know the material so that you can deliver it convincingly and conversationally. And don’t forget to review the introduction, the transitions and the closing. Practice the hand-off from one presenter to the next, including the physical passing of the remote or change of positions in the room. Make sure at least one member of your team can speak to all of the material in case someone doesn’t make it to the presentation (or is struck dumb with stage fright).
4. Appoint a time keeper and a note taker. Establish subtle ways to signal presenters who are running long so that there is time for questions and setting next steps. It is easy to miss signals from your audience while you are concentrating on your presentation, so ask other speakers to make notes when their portion is complete.
Everyone has a story about a presentation gone wrong. I’ve had some funny presenting experiences along the way (well, they are funny now) --meetings booked in too-small rooms; unexpected audience members coming and going during the presentation with no introduction; a client’s projector lying in pieces on the conference table when we entered the room to prep; and an IT tech who nearly knocked himself out trying to back quietly out of the room. I’ve heard anecdotes about sleeping or hostile audience members, and who hasn’t dealt with distractions from ringing phones, email checkers, and even fire alarms? Presenting, whether it is to your peers or potential clients can be nerve-racking. But it is much easier to keep your composure and humor if you have planned for the unexpected.
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