Tips on Prepping for Presentations

I recently presented to an audience of 100+ business owners and after the presentation someone came up and asked how I prepped to speak to the group.  It’s a question that has come up from time to time so I wanted to share my process in case it helps you prepare for your next presentation.

I speak to a variety of audiences (conferences, peer groups, individual companies), on a variety of topics (KPIs & Metrics, Data Driven Decision Making, Sales, SaaS Business), in a variety of formats (in person or online via a webinar).  Regardless of which type of presentation, the process to prepare is all the same:

Understand the Audience – I like to start with the audience to understand what type of audience they are.  From the basics of demographic info, to the type of business they run, to the goal they want to walk away with.  My number one priority to make sure they get maximum value from the 30 – 90 minutes we’re spending together because if not then it’s a waste of time for both of us.

Understand the Ambiance – Will the presentation be in person or online?  The two require different approaches.  If I’m presenting during a conference then I like to understand the major themes from the conference to see if I can present from an angle that fits in.  Another critical piece is the time of my presentation, am I presenting morning, middle of the day or night time.  That will determine how I approach my opening and the mood throughout the presentation.  I’ve given presentations in the morning and you need to focus on “waking everyone up” vs giving a presentation at the end of the conference where you need to focus on “immediate excitement” or you’ll lose people.

Start With An Outline – Now that I know the audience and the ambiance I’ll start with a simple 5 to 8 bullet outline of topics and points I want to cover.  Once I have the outline I’ll add 1 story and supporting data points to each bullet.  In my experience the audience will connect more if you share a story that explains your theme which is why I like to start with a story and then bring in the supporting data points to emphasize my theme.

Rough Draft Practice Run – Once the outline and stories are built out I will run through the presentation at a high level with someone that understands the audience, usually it’s a co-worker.  I typically run through it twice and see how the story flows and meshes together.  By practicing this out loud it makes the words / theme come alive and you really get a sense for the flow.  The other benefit of this practice run is you can start to think about the presentation materials you can use.  I typically use Powerpoint slides, since almost all my presentations are business focused, and the slides are helpful.

Preparing the Slide Deck – The most important thing to remember about the slide deck is that it’s meant to support your presentation not replace it.  It shouldn’t be the main focal point of your presentation, it shouldn’t be too wordy either.  The goal is to help convey your message.  Too often I see people giving presentations where they simply read off their slides, and the worst type are the ones that read off the slides that are behind them.  So they give their back to the audience.

Practice with the Slide Deck – Now that I have my final slide deck it’s time to practice, which I like to do once or twice.  The goal during this round is to put the final touches on the message and make sure everything flows between slides.

By the time I present I have practiced 3 to 4 times and several of them in conjunction with the slide decks so I should be ready to go.  This makes all the difference in the world for me in preparing to speak.

Hope the tips help and if you have any tips of your own I would love to hear them.