Presentation Fails and How to Fix Them #1: Preparation

Check out this ‘Presentation Fails’ video on Preparation!

Right. You’re going to give a presentation. Preparation is the first step, the fundamental one that everyone seems to get wrong in some way; usually by simply not doing enough of it (that occasionally includes me, I’m embarrassed to say).

Look, I know that you know* that you should put in the work when it comes to preparing for your speaking; it’s obvious. However, it seems that few people really bother like they should.

*and now, of course, you know that I know that you know that, which I find very satisfying.

How to Do It

It’s a simple case of the three ‘R’s:

  • Write.
  • Refine.
  • Rehearse.

You may put in a good amount of effort when it comes to creating your piece, but you have to then distill it and THEN rehearse the bloody thing. Yes it’s a faff, but here’s a simple equation for you:

Quality of presentation = quality of material x quantity of rehearsal

Great slides but no time spent rehearsing? Low-quality presentation. FAIL.

Poor slides but lots of time spent rehearsing? (Which in my experience is a pretty unlikely scenario.) Low quality presentation again. FAIL.

You need to spend a good amount of time on both. “But Jon,” I hear you moan, “I haven’t got enough time.” Yes you have. Divide your preparation time in half. At the halfway point (even if you only have 5 minutes) you STOP writing and START rehearsing. It feels counter-intuitive, but the fact (in my mind) is that from that halfway point you’re damaging your presentation by failing to rehearse. It’s like spending ages mixing the ingredients for a cake and then not putting it in the oven.

And then there’s a super-secret special step which you must do on the day itself:

  1. Check the tech.

Get your presentation up on the screen. Click through your slides and make sure that they all work. Try walking around the venue itself and going through the first minute of your presentation. The result? Your nerves will be calmed and you’ll look confident (even if you don’t feel it) which is THE BIGGEST AND BEST TRICK YOU CAN PULL OFF.

To Sum Up

Do yourself and your audience a favour – allocate a decent amount of time to preparing, and then do it correctly. Good luck out there!

Tomorrow: how to get the presentation party started!

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