Presentation preparation - plan well for the right impression

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When you present, your audience members need some orientation and security before they can give you their full attention. It’s the same for you, too. As the speaker up front, you need to feel confident, and appear professional. Make sure you have everything you need to present well and guide your listeners. Use our guide for presentation location preparation. 

Testing, testing …

If you want to make a positive impression, you need optimal conditions. At the top of the list: your equipment. Whether you’re speaking at a conference, presenting to a client, or to your own colleagues at an internal meeting, make sure all your devices and hardware function properly. Once your audience have settled to listen to you, if they hear “we’re very sorry, but there’s a problem with the speaker’s laptop…” or “our beamer’s not working right now,” or similar, the less patient among them might roll their eyes or even leave the room. Others will switch their attention to their smartphones or the person next to them until you’re ready to start. Even for them, anticipation could turn to irritation if they must wait for technical issues to be fixed before you even begin. 

Is it plugged in?

Get familiar with your presentation environment. Ask yourself: 

  • Where’s the beamer? How does it work? 
  • Is there a remote control or pointer? Does it work?  
  • Do I need spare bulbs or batteries? 
  • Where am I going to stand? Can I see my slides without having to turn my back on the audience? 
  • Do I need a microphone? Will I have to hold it, or does it have a clip? 
  • Can I move around freely as I talk? 
  • What about a sound check?  
    Nothing makes your audience wince more than the sudden screech of overloaded speakers. 
  • What’s the room lighting like? Where are the switches or dimmers?  
    Consider the time of day you’ll present and make sure you can adjust the lighting as you need to so everyone can see your slides. Are there windows in the room, and are there blinds or curtains to block out bright daylight that can mar visibility of the screen? 
  • Do I have a glass of water close to hand?  
    This isn’t just good for your voice, or handy in case of a tickly cough. It’s also a great prop in case you go blank or need thinking time before answering a question. A smile and a self-assured sip of water gives you some breathing space. 

Got a pen?

Once you have the room all worked out, consider the finer details:

  • Is there a flipchart or a whiteboard I can use, and marker pens (that work)? This can be useful if you need to explain something or write up points from a discussion. 
  • Do I have my presentation on a USB stick, in case there’s a problem with my laptop and I need to borrow someone else’s?  
  • Are my handouts all printed and easy to find? And those giveaways I want to hand around as a closing gesture? It would be a pity to spoil the moment and final impressions by having to rummage around for them. 

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

You could probably write a book on all the situations, predictable and not so, that speakers have to cope with. No doubt you too can recall a few episodes, as a speaker or audience member, that you’d rather forget. Prepare everything in a professional manner in advance of presenting to others. Then impress and convince your audience with your calm authority. 

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