A dear friend of mine had a presentation coming up. It was an important presentation for her and she gave me all the indications that she was well-prepared.
However after the presentation, I saw downcast eyes. Concerned I enquired as to how the presentation had gone. ‘OK’ was her initaial response, ‘but it should have gone so much better…..I spent HOURS preparing for it’.
Familiar situation? I know I’ve been there. You see, she felt that, for all the time she had put into the preparation of her presentation, she should have got a much better result. She had spent hours putting together her case gathering data and preparing her answers to anticipated questions.
Here is what however happened. The agenda ran late, she was asked to cut short her presentation by 20 minutes and therefore she could not get to a lot of material. As you can imagine all this and the fact that she was presenting to “top management” completely threw her off her stride.
Here’s the thing – your results in a business or high stakes presentation like this, are not dictated by:
- How much time you spent preparing OR
- How much data and evidence you have
It depends on the CLARITY of the KEY TAKE-AWAYS of your message.
If my friend had spent the same amount of hours preparing but in a different way, she would have got a much better response. She needed to get ADEPT at preparing for presentations. ADEPT is our acronym for:
D esign (Structure)
E ngage with stories
While preparing for a presentation, it is important to prepare ALL of the above:
Remember that the base of any great presentation is a good understanding of your AUDIENCE. Always remember to focus on your AUDIENCE and their EXPECTATIONS before you start preparing your presentation. Ask yourself:
- Who is my audience?
- How much do they know?
- What is their objective of sitting through my presentation?
- What would make them say YES to what I am suggesting/selling/proposing?
And most importantly WHAt are the MUSt-Haves and NICE-to haves for THIS audience. That way when your time gets cut you know EXACTLY what to zoom in and focus on, given your new or amended time-frame.
- DESIGN (STRUCTURE)
The human mind needs structure to remember and therefore there must a logical flow to your presentation. This allows your audience to follow you and be influenced by you. Structure appeals to our left brains – the logical part of our brain, and we all have them.
And here is a link to a short video on ‘Criteria for an Effective Structure’ by Matt Abrahams (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2QLTdc2sTo). Matt Abrahams teaches Presentation Skills and has a lot of resources that you can access any time to learn more about presenting.
- ENGAGE with STORIES
While structure appeals to our left brain, stories appeal to our right or creative brain. Stories allow us to derive our own meaning from what has been presented. Think back and look through the presentations of all those who you admire – my hunch is that they’re all storytellers.
Even if your time for a presentation has been cut – make sure you have some shorter anecdotes to replace longer stories. Stories can deliver many messages in a short space of time if chosen well for their relevance for the topic and the audience at hand.
Practice makes perfect. Once you have a rough draft in place, stand up and practice it. Heres a tip – Do not practice in front of a mirror! You never see yourself when you are presenting (unless you are a professional speaker and there are large screens set up around the room every time you present!). Most of us don’t however, practice facing a wall and pretend that that is your audience. Record yourself and watch it for feedback – no one else needs to know.
Practice also helps you get very familiar with your topic. You know it so well that condensing ideas will be easier.
If you really want to improve, however, look for feedback. Ask people you feel safe with to give you feedback. One of the BEST ways to put your skills to practice is to join a Toastmasters Club near you.
Prepare for the time that has been allocated. AND less time, AND more time. In order to prepare for less time, you need to be extremely clear on what is the key message of your presentation and the key points that you want to convey. So that you know where to focus, in the eventuality that there is less time.
In order to prepare for more time, prepare anecdotes, case studies and data that support your key message and points. These can be inserted when required.
And that’s when you are fully prepared!
As for my friend, it took her a little time but she got back in front of her audience, this time ADEPTly prepared, and she got her YES.
Good skills on your journey of learning and presenting.