How do you prepare yourself before a big presentation?

by Phil Waknell

In this extract from Business Presentation Revolution, published on July 14th 2021, I answer the important question: how do you prepare yourself before a big presentation?

Before you take the stage, you need to be comfortable. Audiences don’t appreciate speakers who haven’t prepared properly, don’t know their presentation well enough, and are visibly worrying about what to say next.

There are several simple actions you can take before your presentation to maximize your own comfort and help you to deliver a better talk. I call them the 3 S’s: serenity, space and support.

  • Serenity

Whether you prefer to improvise or learn your speech, you should rehearse it aloud several times, filming yourself if you can, and making sure you take no more than 90% of the time allocated for your presentation (not including any time for questions and answers). The fifth run-through will be much better than the first, and you will be more comfortable with the flow of your presentation and better equipped to react, adapt and improvise if needed.

If preparing your presentation is like mixing the ingredients for a cake, then rehearsing is like baking it. Most cakes are not edible raw, but you should not burn them either. Rehearse enough, but closer to five times than fifty. You’re aiming for a personal connection, not a perfect delivery.

In particular, rehearse your introduction and conclusion, even if you aim to improvise much of your presentation. The beginning is where you will feel the most stress, and where the audience will form an initial impression of you, so knowing how you will begin your presentation will give you the best chance of a strong first impression. Equally, knowing your conclusion well should make their final impression just as positive.

You should also prepare a cue-card: write a few words to remind you of the flow of your presentation on a small piece of paper to keep in your pocket. This way, you won’t worry about forgetting what to say – and because you will feel more comfortable, you’ll remember your flow more easily.

  • Space

Familiarizing yourself with the place or online platform in which you will be presenting will help you feel more relaxed. Try to get access to the room, stage or application in advance so you are not discovering it at the start of your presentation.

  • Support

The people handling the technology are your friends, as long as you seek them out in advance, ask them about any limitations and make sure they know what you need from them. For a presentation with a live audience, this means the microphones, lighting, sound and screen. For an online presentation, it means the people who will be responsible for the online platform, screen sharing, spotlighting your video and making sure only the right microphones are live.

Once these important people are properly briefed and on your side, you will feel ready and calm. Knowing that they have tested your slides in real conditions will give you one less thing to worry about.

Find out more in this short video featuring our Chief Coaching Officer, Michael Rickwood, with host Rose Bloomfield.