Public Speaking Tips for Better Presentations
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New Year’s Resolution – 10 Steps to Prepare Better Presentations
By Andrew Ivey
New Year. New Year’s resolution. Like most things that are worthwhile it’s true that when we invest solid preparation in an important presentation we achieve a better result. I have never doubted it — but some times I have definitely been better prepared than on other occasions. So, in common with most people I have decided on a New Year’s resolution this January — be better prepared for my business presentations.
But this time, since my previous New Year’s resolutions rarely lasted much beyond February, I have noted down the key elements of better preparation. This simple check list should ensure that I am both better prepared for my presentations and less apprehensive about the output. It is equally true that sound preparation results in higher self-confidence and lower anxiety when speaking in public. Now that’s a bonus objective.
- Write it down. Be prepared to write or type the whole of the presentation in full. Check over the length of the sentences and abbreviate where necessary.
- Organize it. Aim to type the presentation in a standard lower case style using double line spacing. Use capitals at the start of a sentence or to emphasize certain words or phrases only. Begin each sentence on a new line. This will be important if you are to read the presentation from this script. Remember to select a typeface that you can read easily.
- Mark it up. Word process the presentation with the appropriate mood advice, intonation markings and advice for extra emphasis. These pointers are for you — they should not feature in any scripts that you give to the organizer, the audience or the Press.
- Read it. Read the presentation fully all the way through. Repeat this procedure several times becoming more and more familiar with the words and phrases. Where any particular words or sentences don’t work then mark these up for subsequent editing. This is the best time to ensure that all the words sound right and you are not to be caught out by tricky pronunciation.
- Read it aloud. Read the presentation out aloud. Then read it again several times over. It’s best to do this exercise standing up and possibly facing a mirror.
- Record yourself. Try to record yourself reading the presentation out aloud. Once you have a decent recording, you can listen to yourself delivering the presentation when driving to and from work. Allow the words to sink in and become more familiar. This isn’t necessarily a technique for learning the presentation but is definitely excellent preparation.
- Prepare notes. Prepare the written presentation for the conference. Depending on the event one can use small cards or A4 (letter) size sheets. Small cards can carry the major points, threads and quotations of the preparation without the full text of the speech. A4 or letter size sheets can contain the full marked-up text of the presentation. If sheets are used these should be single sided only and not stapled. Note the page numbers in case their order is upset.
- Contact the conference organizer. Discuss the final arrangements for the event. Make sure that the organizer has a suitable and up to date resume of your achievements, interests and professional standing. Discuss with the organizer how they will use this material to make your introduction.
- Be early Arrive early at the conference venue. Either meet up with the conference organizer on arrival or leave them a message via phone or reception informing them of your arrival. From the conference organizer’s perspective this is extremely useful. Check over the spare copies of the presentation and have them available for any Press contacts that might participate.
- Test everything. Take the opportunity to test both the sound quality and the seating arrangements in the conference room. If there is a sound system you should check over the microphone adjustment technique and confirm your audibility at the back of the room. Complete similar checks with any presentation equipment that you will use — particularly if you intend to integrate video within the presentation. Don’t forget those seating arrangements. A quick word with the organizers will confirm the expected audience. If audience numbers are on the low side for the size of the room discuss with the organizer how you might mark out a seating area near the front. Roll up your sleeves and pitch in at this point.
New Year’s resolutions typically demand some forbearance or abstemiousness on my part — which inevitably results in my defaulting on the arrangement. But this resolution — to be better prepared for my presentations — simply requires focus, clarity and self-organization. Now, could that be a matter for another New Year’s resolution?
Andrew Ivey is the principal presentation skills trainer at Time to Market the UK presentation skills training resource. Time to Market provides first class presentation skills and public speaking training.