7 Steps For a Successful Presentation

Public speaking is fun, and can be very rewarding with the proper preparation. The following steps will help you breeze through your next presentation.

1. Prepare well. Do your research, and develop a checklist of your needs. You’ll include the usual items (laptop and projector, for example), but don’t forget a marker and/or pointer, your reading glasses, and other details. Don’t rely on memory. It’s too easy to forget those things.

2. Anticipate questions from the audience. You can’t plan for all, but answers to a half dozen or so of the most likely questions should be committed to memory.

3. Develop notes or a script, especially if you’re not using PowerPoint. Don’t try to wing it. Notes keep you on message and help keep you on time. An outline format works best.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. I can’t emphasize this enough. Try to get your material down cold. This will maximize your eye contact and create a more natural, conversational tone. Practice responding to the questions you listed in Step 2, especially if you’ll be nervous during the presentation. By practicing, your answers will sound more natural and confident.

Record yourself, if possible. Listen for any glitches (um’s, ah’s, you know’s), as well as any other speech patterns that should be corrected.

5. Arrive early. This gives you a chance to get accustomed to the room and test your equipment a final time. You can set up the presentation area to your liking, and acclimate yourself to any distractions, such as outside noise, poor lighting and odd acoustics. Mingle with the audience for a bit. That will help settle any jitters.

6. Don’t let a mistake bother you. Everyone slips up on occasion. Plow on. If you forget something, try to come back to the point, or skip it. Your audience will never know what they didn’t hear. If it’s a more obvious glitch – say, you bump into something – mutter an “oops” and move on. Don’t dwell on it, as that will just draw attention to the error and make you feel more uncomfortable.

7. Speak frequently. To maintain your edge, get out and speak whenever possible. Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions clubs, among other groups, need speakers on a regular basis. They enjoy a variety of subject matter, so don’t feel you’re confined to business-related topics. I’ve spoken about amateur radio; what hobbies can you talk about for 20 minutes or so?

Seminars and other presentations help you refine your communication skills and enhance your professional development. Take advantage of any opportunity to speak before an audience. You’ll enjoy the experience.