Effective Presentation Preparation


If you have ever been asked to make a presentation or speech, you might recall having an instant fear reaction. Of course not everyone has this reaction, some people have a very different response and it is much more positive! They actually see having the chance to talk with a group (large or small) as an opportunity to be of service, something they deeply enjoy. Whether you love it or not, please know - how you feel about presenting can evolve and shift - from dread to delight. I know this because it has been my personal experience.

The fear reaction occurs because our brain perceives a big risk in putting ourselves out there in front of others. It can feel very confronting and we can imagine potentially disastrous results. Of course that doesn't need to be our experience at all, especially if we understand we can change our perception and we can change what we choose to imagine. Added to that we can learn how to be effective in ways that help us enjoy the whole experience instead of loathing it. The guts of becoming effective 'up front', is to build both confidence (a state of being), and competence (skills).

In my 20+ years of helping people grow their confidence and competence, it has become glaringly obvious that the NO1 reason people don't have those things yet is because no one has ever taught them how. No one taught them how to prepare their material/content for best results, and no-one taught them how to make use of the very best resource they have - themselves!

In spite of the proliferation of digital media as a communication tool, it remains true that you just cannot beat being with a 'live' presenter who does their job well. We must be effective in our business and social environment if we are to get the best possible results. Human communication greases the wheels of our relationships. If you are one of the people who can present effectively, communicate effectively, and get results, you are going to be far more valuable than someone who cannot.

Here is a straight-forward 8-step preparation plan that will help you prepare YOU and your material for best results. Use this plan as a starting point and allow it to evolve to be 'fit for purpose' for you.

Step One - ATTITUDE/STATE: Begin by setting your mind straight and tapping into an attitude that empowers you. Choose to look forward to preparing so that you do a great job for your audience. Decide to like them before you even meet them (if they are going to be strangers). Look forward to doing a good job instead of fearing doing a bad one. This is a choice. If you don't control your state - your audience will.

Step Two - OUTCOME: Every presentation has a purpose. It is your job to clarify for yourself what that purpose is. Just asking the question will direct you to consider the 'why?' of the presentation. Why is your audience there? Why are YOU there? Getting clear about the purpose helps you get clear about the outcome(s) you are seeking from your presentation. It also helps you connect with an internal state of 'conviction'.

Step Three - CONTENT: Content is the 'what' of the presentation or speech. What will we cover? What will we do? Use post-it notes or mind maps to dump all the things you know about the topic down. Sift them for what will help you achieve your outcome. If you notice you there are gaps in your knowledge, get an 'expert' in to talk about that bit, or get researching - fast.

Step Four - STYLE/FORM: This is the 'how' your material will be delivered. There are more ways than 'telling' or running through a bundle of slides to get a powerful message across. What is the best way (in your view) to get the message across and reach your outcome? Let your creative juices flow.

Step Five - MAP: This lays out the steps you are going to take in the order you will take them as you make your way through the presentation or speech. Make a road map of your presentation using coloured pens and you will make notes you can present from directly. This is just like a road map you would use to find somewhere you were unfamiliar with. If you use a map, you will get where you are headed. Having at least a rough idea of where you are going and how you are going to get there is also confidence building. Note: Remember there is usually more than one way to get somewhere - be flexible and unattached to your maps - they are not the territory.

Step Six - VISUALISE: Here is a really fun step! Use your imagination to run through your presentation, meet your audience, talk to them afterwards etc. Use the power of your mind to create a reality you would love to experience. Imagine you are hearing people saying they appreciate your presentation, that it was helpful in some way. Connect with a motivation that is all about doing a great job and fulfilling the purpose of your presentation. Let yourself anticipate the best possible outcome without becoming attached to it.

Step Seven - COOK IT: Leave your prep alone. Allow your consciousness to work in an integrated way and let your amazing brain get busy and create this all for you. It can be tempting to 'worry' a presentation until is devoid of all signs of life. Don't let that be you!

Step Eight - PRACTISE (TAKING OPPORTUNITIES): When the opportunity arises to share your thoughts, teach, influence etc - take it. This step is not about rehearsal. By all means walk through the presentation in terms of the flow and the main points you want to make but avoid rehearsing a word for word speech and then attempting to animate it. You are no longer in a school speech competition where such things matter. In the real world we need to capture and engage, share and serve - generously.


Amanda Fleming



Amanda Fleming is Director of Presenter At Large Ltd, an organisation dedicated to presenting highly stimulating and effective learning events that produce lasting positive results.

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