How do I prepare for a presentation – here are the questions you should be asking!

puzzled cartoonHow do I prepare for a presentation?

Actually, most people don’t ask me that question. Most people ask either, ‘How do I write a presentation?’ Or ‘How do I give a presentation?’ And yet, because most of the people I work with are intelligent people, they know that preparation is key. It’s just that we don’t always fully understand what we mean by preparation.

Here’s what it is not!

  • It’s not opening up PowerPoint, choosing a template and brain dumping your content into the handily provided bullet points and maybe adding in a few pictures or graphics to make them look more ’visual’
  •  It’s not taking a blank piece of paper and writing down a list /mind map of what you want to say
  • It’s not taking an old presentation and tweaking it (or at least not most of the time)
  • It’s not not doing anything, pitching up on the day and hoping for the best!
  • And finally, it’s not writing a detailed script, learning it and then reciting it.

Of course, it is really easy to understand why people do the above and perhaps it starts off with those two initial questions – how do I write a presentation and how do I deliver a presentation?

If we have an approach based on writing, then switching on the laptop, or listing content or writing a script seems the most natural thing in the world. And don’t get me wrong – at some point you might very well, almost certainly will, write something down. My approach and the one I teach my clients is that there are three important steps to take before tackling the ‘writing’ stage.

And if you believe that the most important part of the presentation is the delivery – then you are only half right. It’s the delivery that will bring the message to life and make the connection with your audience but only if you have thought carefully about that message and only if you have crafted that connection.

So, what do you need to do to prepare?

Here are those three steps I mentioned before:

  1. Get clarity about the overall core message you want and need people to take away. Make sure this isn’t a snappy strapline or a summary of the content. It’s the thing you want people to take away, remember and be able to recall as the gist, the core, the essence of what you are talking about.
  1. Be very very clear about what you want people to know at the end of the presentation, what you want them to do after the personation and how you want them to feel. The more specific you are, the more likely it is that you craft this into your content and of course into your delivery style. *and if you can’t work out what it is that you want people to do…rethink why you are speaking in the first place!
  1. Step into your audience’s shoes and work out what it is that they need to hear (this is vastly different to what it is that you want to tell them). What do they need to hear in order for your message and your outcomes to resonate? How is this relevant to them and how will they benefit from listening to you?

Once you have taken these three steps, then the rest will flow. You have crystallized the WHY and WHAT you have to say. The rest is about the HOW. And that’s when sounding it out, stumbling through, rehearsing and ‘living it’ come into play. (My process for practising delivery – another blog I think)

So, if ‘How do I write a presentation?’ and How do I give a presentation aren’t always the most helpful questions, what do we replace them with?

How about:

How do I get clarity on my message?

How do I shape and craft a presentation?

How do I bring my presentation to life?

How do I develop a dynamic delivery?

If I can help at all with your presentation or you know someone who would like to explore these ideas and practices further, then call on 07946604859 or email on catherine@catherinesandland.com

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