Public Speaking Report 10: A One-Week Guide to Prepare for Your Next Presentation
We get it. You don’t have weeks to prepare for your upcoming presentation.
After all, while your next talk may be important, it’s probably not a TED Talk that will be seen by millions of people, or a presidential address with a primetime audience.
How can you balance your desire to give a great talk with the need to use your time wisely?
In this report, we offer a timeline of the steps you can take in just one week to get your presentation up and running. As to how long each step should take, we leave that up to you. Only you know how many or how few hours you can devote to each task.
One Week to Your Presentation
This is your “big picture” day, on which you should identify:
Your goal. What tangible outcomes are you hoping to achieve by delivering your presentation?
Your bright shiny object (BSO). If your audience takes away only one main point after hearing your talk, what do you want it to be?
Your audience-focused bright shiny object (ABSO). How can you meet the audience where they are? Why should they care? If they are resistant to your ideas, what’s in it for them?
Now that you have your big-picture thinking done, it’s time to brainstorm.
Whether you do it best by keyboard, pen, Post-it, file card, or voice memo, jot down everything you might want to say. No need for a verbatim script – just capture your thoughts in writing.
Don’t judge your thoughts; collect everything that comes to mind. You’ll have time to edit tomorrow.
First, look at your list from yesterday. Did you capture everything? What did you forget to include?
Next, begin to order your points. The traditional structure is three main points, each of which is supported by stories, including case studies and examples, as well as statistics. Between each point is a transition – a pivot – that leads the audience from one section to the next.
Specifically, you’ll want to:
- Identify the stories and case studies that have strong emotional content.
- Contextualize your statistics by infusing them with meaning.
It’s time to put the pieces together. Create a draft of your talk that includes the three points, the supporting materials, and transitions. Develop your opening, closing, and call to action, too.
It’s time to work on the visuals. The visual aids you choose should be the ones that best reinforce your main points and engage your audience.
Strip out everything on each slide that isn’t absolutely essential to your key points. When teamed with a simple message, a great image – a photo, illustration, or other graphic element – is remembered for far longer than a list of a half-dozen bullet points.
Present data – whether in a chart, graph, diagram, table, or map – with visually appealing design that leads the eye to your most important point. Also, consider if other visual aids, such as handouts, videos, a demonstration, or an old-school flip chart, would work better.
With your words and visuals ready to go, you can move on to a practice session. We recommend breaking your practice session into segments, as follows:
Segment One: Open and Transition to Point One
Segment Two: Point One and Transition to Point Two
Segment Three: Point Two and Transition to Point Three
Segment Four: Point Three and Transition to First Close
Segment Five: First Close and Transition to Q&A and Second Close
Here are some additional tips:
- Practice by speaking out loud and recording yourself, ideally on video. Enlist some friends and family to be your audience.
- Deliver your run-through as you will your actual talk. As examples, stand, move, and display your visuals.
- Attempt to deliver your opening and closing without looking at your notes or reading your words.
- Pay close attention to delivering seamless transitions between topics and setting up your slides.
- Run a stopwatch on each segment, which will give you an approximation of total running time. It also will reveal if you need to cut or, conversely, bulk up the material.
- Identify the areas that drag or feel less than compelling and adjust as necessary.
Before the day is through, print out your notes and number them.
It’s show time!
Most importantly, get into the right headspace for a successful talk. These tips for managing speaking anxiety can help.
To give yourself the best chance for a stellar showing, arrive early. Test the logistics. Greet people as they walk in, effectively enlisting them as allies when you begin.
Take a breath. Break a leg. You got this.