What to Do if You Don’t Have a Lot of Time to Prepare for a Presentation

It’s not ideal, but it happens all the time. You get notified that you have to give a presentation with little or no time to thoroughly prepare. Speaking in front of an audience is difficult enough, but when you have little time to prepare, the stakes can feel even higher. The good news is this doesn’t always mean it’s time to panic. Consider these strategies for putting together an effective presentation quickly.

Consider the Audience

First and foremost you need to think about your audience. Who are they and how much do they already know about your topic? What more do they need to know? What is the overall goal of your presentation? If you address the needs and concerns of your specific audience, they are more likely to be engaged in your presentation.

Keep Your Talking Points Simple

While it can certainly be helpful to use PowerPoint, Prezi, or some other software to make your presentation more visual, remember that less is often more when you don’t have much time to prepare. When it comes to delivering an informative presentation on the fly, keeping your talking points simple can work in your favor. At the end of the day the audience is only going to remember one or two things from your presentation, so decide what that should be and structure your presentation around those points.

Tell a Story

You don’t have to do any research to tell a personal story, and stories are an excellent way to connect with an audience. Choose a short story or anecdote that relates to your topic and use it to illustrate your points. As long as you know your story well, it can make for an interesting and engaging presentation and can help you deliver your message well.

Include Audience Participation

Let the audience do some of the work by inviting them to participate. Ask for a show of hands or invite an audience member to share a personal story of their own. You can also do a quick ice breaker to get the audience thinking and interested in your topic. This will break up your presentation and will also take up some time.

Don’t Let Them See Your Nerves

When you haven’t had much time to prepare your presentation it might be tempting to tell the audience that and even crack a joke asking them to forgive your performance. However, seasoned presenters will tell you this is not a good idea. It’s better to stand up with confidence, own it, and fake it until you make it. Smile and just do your best. Remember, you want to give the impression that you are a confident and credible speaker, so use good posture, maintain eye contact, and dress the part.

Keep it Short

Unless you have been told to speak for an hour, it is generally best to keep things short and to the point. Have your main objective in mind along with 3-4 supporting points. Don’t stray from these points and avoid ad-libbing too many extra details. Add as much audience participation as you can, as this means less talking for you, and leave time at the end for audience questions.