Where Do I Even Begin in Preparation for a Presentation?

Preparing for a presentation can be an overwhelming experience.  However, the key to a great presentation is preparation.  It doesn’t matter if you are shy and introverted or outgoing and beaming with confidence- if you don’t prepare properly for your presentation you are not going to connect with your audience.  The following tips and strategies can help you break down the complicated task of preparing for a presentation into smaller more manageable steps.

Step 1: What is Your Purpose?

You can’t possibly prepare for something that you don’t understand.  Therefore, you must first begin by identifying the main purpose of your presentation.  What do you want your audience to learn? What is your main goal or objective?  What information are you trying to convey?  Make sure your topic is relevant and something that you are knowledgeable about.   You should be able to write your objective in about 10 words or less so this first step does not involve jotting down every little detail.  Having a clear, concise purpose and objective will help you stay focused and on topic throughout your presentation.

Step 2: Analyze Your Audience

This is such an important step because you want to know who you are going to be speaking to.  Research your audience ahead of time and familiarize yourself with their background, interests, values, and purpose of attending your presentation.  You certainly don’t want to step on stage and make a pop culture reference if you are speaking to a group of senior citizens.  You will likely be hearing crickets in your audience.

Step 3: Prepare the Body of the Presentation

Once you have determined the objective of your presentation, determine how much information you can present in the allotted time.  Also, consider your audience when preparing the details.  You don’t want to give a presentation that is too basic or too advanced.  The body of the presentation is where you will present your ideas and information.  This can include facts, data, personal experiences, quotes from experts, charts, graphs, and detailed descriptions. Make sure to vary your material, as audiences can easily get bored when bombarded with too many facts or visuals.  Also, make sure to include only what is necessary.  It is better to keep your presentation concise and relevant rather than wordy and lengthy.

Step 4: Prepare Your Introduction and Conclusion

Once you have prepared the body of your presentation it’s time to focus on how you are going to begin and end your talk.  The first 3 minutes are perhaps the most important because that is your chance to hook the audience and get them engaged and interested in your topic.  Make the introduction relevant, but also stimulate the audience and peak their interest.  During your conclusion, you want to be sure and reinforce your main ideas.  Your audience will never remember your entire presentation so you want to leave them with the most important ideas.

Step 5: Rehearse

Most people spend a great deal of time preparing for their presentation but very little time actually practicing it.  Practicing your presentation is a critical part of the preparation process because it helps you with the delivery of your information.  It helps you to focus on positive body language and reduce filler words such as “um, like, and well.”  These little things can diminish a speaker’s credibility.  The more you practice the more familiar you will become with the material and the more confidently you will deliver it.