How seriously do you take your presentation preparation? Do you plan to perform by preparing? Or do you just “wing it”?
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If you think about a few people that you admire for their presentation skills, how much time and energy do you think they invest in their presentation preparation? I guess it also depends on how seasoned a presenter they are. But the answer is usually “lots”.
I’ve learned that great presentations are strongly based on great preparation. Always. Whether you’re driving an outcome in or for your business, or whether you’ve been invited to speak on the back of what you’re an acknowledged “authority” in, you owe it to prepare to be the best you can.
So here’s a bunch of presentation preparation aspects you might want to consider for your next “masterpiece”:
What is your Intent?
I was taught that everything else follows two key things that start off good presentation preparation:
- Knowing your purpose in respect of the desired outcome(s).
- Knowing your audience make-up and their expectations.
What is your intent with your presentation? What do you expect it to achieve for you? And for your audience? What lasting impressions and insights do you want your audience to walk away with at the end of your presentation? What will enable them to clearly articulate your key message afterwards?
Easily retained, clear messages giving them confidence that you can help them “get what they want“.
Who is your Audience and What do they Need?
The second key preparation is audience analysis.
- Who will be there and how many are you talking to?
- Why are they there? What do they need?
- What are their demographics? And what do they have in common that you can leverage or deliver to?
- How can you best provide or facilitate that?
These two aspects are critical for delivering your presentation “masterpiece”. Please take them seriously.
What’s the most important presentation preparation?
This isn’t easy, but it’s very simple. The most important is your ability to confidently deliver your “masterpiece” without notes. To be able to hold the audiences engaged attention for the duration of your presentation. And really connect with them. So as to be able to focus on “reading the energy” in the room and either adapting to that, or aiming to change it. Not on what you have to remember to say next.
That differentiates the authority from the beginner. That’s what drives your preparation. Period.
What Structure will you follow?
I’m not an avid Mind Mapper, but find them to be the most helpful to structure my presentations. Usually all on one page. The umbrella intent is the key message outcome. Made up of usually just 3 or 4 key points or branches. (Less is more, remember?) And then each key point has a few sub-points or twigs & leaves.
We were taught the 4Mat approach to structuring presentations into 4 quadrants:
- Why (20%): Why are you here, and why should they be interested in what you have to share?
- What (10%): What are you going to cover to give everyone in the room clarity of purpose and outcome?
- How (60%): How will they leverage what you are presenting on so they can expect the outcome you are projecting?
- What next (10%): What do you want them to have learned and to remember that you remind them they will take away and what will their future look like when they have embraced your key message.
There are many providers to this 4Mat model. I’ve just embedded one. Easy to structure into or around your mind map.
Remembering without Notes
Now here’s a critical insight to enable you to memorize your content to present without notes:
For each point and sub-point, you’ll want to associate and attach a picture to it. Preferably with a symbol that will help you remember the association and hence give you access to the content in your mind. Why in one colour, What in an other and so forth.
This will enable lots of easy practice. The structure let’s you “store” it in your mind and it’s associations to (symbols) to access it. Until you’ve “got it”. And that you can trust your mind to easily access the flow and the content to “come out naturally” in your presentation. Confidently and comfortably.
In my metaphors blog, I outline how everybody “loves a story”. How we emotionally connect better with content through a story. How our associative mind is stimulated. Allowing us better to remember the villain or the character or the plot or the outcome. Helping to bypass traditional objections or barriers.
However, in a presentation we can leverage this even better. By “opening” a story, and going into it just enough for the listener to “get” the storyline, their sharp mind will have “guessed where this is going”. But not “closing it” until the end of the presentation. It’s a subtle way of retaining their attention. Because their mind will keep going back to wonder when you are going to “close the story”. And so in the “what next” part of your presentation you’ll want to be sure to go back and remind them and then to close it for them. Thereby purposefully linking it to your key message or anticipated outcome.
Worth spending a bit of time preparing.
One of the important aspects of “master-piecing” presentations is to strengthen the rapport with your audience. The metaphors blog describes the 4 common communication preferences we all have and use:
- 40% of people are “visual” and “see” the world through pictures and their language is “coloured” through “speaking in pictures”.
- Another 40% are “kinesthetic” who “feel” the world and their language is influenced to be more “touchy feely”.
- Only 10% are “auditory”, who “hear” the world around them and they “resonate” more to what’s in their or your language.
- Only 10% are what we call “auditory digital” who “need proof and evidence in detail” in their orientation and their language.
Why is this important? Well, rapport is the presence of trust and responsiveness between you and your audience. You can assume some rapport will already exist, because of how you were introduced. But you can build on it by pandering to their above communication preferences.
Through your language, your gesture and your posture. In an audience you can’t know each person’s preference. But the above percentages show the typical ratios. And so you’ll want to be sure your preparation gives every one of these 4 categories something to have each audience member’s mind tell them “this person speaks our language”. Strengthening rapport. Both in your slides and in your delivery.
For instance, if you’re an auditory digital that loves numbers, facts etc, and that’s all your slides and presentation focus on, you’ll have “lost” 90% of your audience.
Hopefully this has opened up a few more perspectives for you? This is how admired presenters prepare for their “masterpieces. No rocket science, is there?
But perhaps some unfamiliar stuff that will need some patience and practice to “get”.
Which brings me to my final point. Practice. Great presenters didn’t start that way. Yes personalities etc play a part. But no great presenter is born. Every great presenter develops that skill around their personality. And then they practice. Before each presentation. And by every presentation they do. Knowing they’ll never get “perfect”. But that each one will be better than the last one. Because it was “just another practice”. To allow them to learn getting better EVERY time.
So why not you?
Please note that this blog is the first in my presentation skills trilogy.
You can go to the two remaining ones from here:
You know what I’ve learned? If you’re not (yet) where you want to be with your presentation skills, why not find and work with a coach that will guide you and hold you accountable to doing what it takes?