How To Prepare For An Important Presentation

from Forbes

How do you prepare for an upcoming presentation? Let’s say it’s an important one, so you’re not going to wing it, just showing up in the moment and saying whatever comes into your mind.

Not a good idea, really, even for a minor presentation, so good for you for prepping – this time.

A recent study about dealing with stress highlighted two of the worst ways to deal with that pesky phenomenon: worrying about it without solving anything specific, and fantasizing that the whole thing will just go away on its own.

It struck me that I’ve used both methods to deal (unsuccessfully) with an upcoming speech, and many of my clients have done the same. It’s not a surprise to learn that such mental meanderings don’t help, but it does point the way toward useful preparation for a speech v the less useful kind.

So here are five steps for speech preparation, ones that meet the study-approved criteria for not making your stress worse, and that may even help you give a better speech.

More here.

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7 Comments

  1. As someone who has been afraid of public speaking my whole life, I found this article useful. I usually get anxiety about giving presentations, and worry that I will mess up, fumble on words, look stupid, and forget everything that I plan to talk about. When I worry about these things more than actually preparing, what I worry about usually ends up happening. The author is absolutely correct that worrying is one of the worst ways to deal with stress about giving a presentation. It does not fix anything, and only makes you more nervous for your presentation.

    I have tried everything to combat my pre-presentation nerves except the one common sense thing that the author points out in this article: lots of preparation. From figuring out your audience, to thoughtfully putting together the choreography, to practicing, all of these steps are necessary in creating a decent presentation.

    I feel like steps four and five were the most important to make sure stress and anxiety does not get the best of you. Self-fulfilling prophecies are very powerful. If you visualize that your presentation will go well, and go in with a positive attitude and outlook for yourself, the chances that you will do well go up. Lastly, I think the biggest thing that will make or break a presentation is whether you have rehearsed. This is the part that I usually stumble on, partly because of procrastination and partly because I try not to think about or do the thing that I am nervous about. Overall, I already knew I should be doing almost everything in this article, but it is about putting it into practice that is the difficult part.

  2. One of my most lack attributes is being prepared for many of my presentations and it has come back to bite me multiple times as I was capable of achieving a high score but because I was underprepared I only receive a satisfactory score. This article highlight 5 crucial steps for someone to take in order to prepare for their presentation. The first step which is possibly the most important step is to figure out the logistics which essentially means to figure out the audience and what their needs are. The reason I say this is possibly the most important step is because you can’t preach that god doesn’t exist in a religious school like Seton Hall and expect a standing ovation for your great speech. After figure out the crowd you will be dealing with then cater your presentation content to fit their needs and hopefully achieve the expected reaction out of them. The third step is to achieve an agenda hopefully to grasp the human attention as humans need a story line in order to pay attention as a good presentation does not consist of a collection of slides of random information that can be thrown around. The fourth step is mainly to boost your confidence and it is to visualize the perfect ending to the presentation and convince yourself that it is achievable. Finally the most important step if it were not for the first step would be to PRACTICE as it avoids bad performances. Your need to practice in order to achieve success and sometimes winging it will work but majority of the time the true way to success is by practice. Now with these 5 steps I can better understand the presentation process and am hopefully capable of now having better presentations. As a person who usually gave B presentation, I am able to fully incorporate these steps into my routine then I will be able to now deliver A grade presentations. My biggest comment would be to say thank you for putting up material such as this so we are able to help perform better in college.

  3. It seems that a two page from Forbes has been more helpful than a three-credit course at Seton Hall I got an A in (see Oral Communications). I never though of being a late night speaker as something I had to take into account when doing public speaking. The idea that more intellectual effort is unnecessary for a late night keynote never crossed my mind. The over intellectual gibberish when everyone has had dinner and is about to relax after a lecture would actually harm someone at that hour rather than make the talk some grandiose renaissance piece. A speech’s particularity and hyper focus have never been a strong suit, we used the rigid blocking method of line by line. I always forget to drive home the central message. The focus on strict rules, specifically in a grading environment, is a massive handicap.
    The most essential part of the article is not the “five steps to success,” it is the fantastic insight of the author to drive home the point that human beings still love stories. The realization that we (human beings) have been learning through stories for the VAST majority of our evolutionary history is something that I, at least, look over. We tend to gloss over our evolutionary history and how recent books (let alone book reports) actually are! The task of any presentation is to craft an attractive story (not a tragedy) and draw the audience into the story you created. Harking back to Oral Communications the focus on rigid rules castrates storytelling by design. Although the emphasis on the concentration of central message and proper preparation are indeed fundamental the idea of an introduction and conclusion in a speech should be replaced with a beginning and an end. The vernacular needs to be changed, not just because it confuses the student but also that the current terminology grinds creativity into the dust (whether by design or not is irrelevant).
    While Antonio said in The Merchant of Venice “A stage where every man must play a part” the modern quote should be “speeches are a play and we must play our part.” Our modern hyper-analytical minds and technological obsessions have handicapped our storytelling skills. We have become brilliant fools with our 35 slides, 3 videos, and 2 musical numbers when we try to lecture on the Geology of Morals.

  4. Presentations are easy if you prepare for them. How do you prepare for them? Well, I always follow a specific plan to do a presentation that includes research, organization and practice. The last step is very important because it is the main factor to a great speech in your presentation. These steps seem very broad and simple but the way you conduct them is what differentiates you and creates a perfect project.

    Every presentation is different: informative, persuasive, interpretive, etc. The first thing you need to research is the audience you will be talking to and the location. Why location? You want to know everything about your crowd: gender, culture, age, etc. Knowing these factors will help channel your thoughts better to the crowd and make the audience better. Writing a speech suiting your audience is important and a key factor otherwise your presentation will be underachieving.

    The next step is organization. Write your thoughts down and connect the dots. Make sure to write your essay in a coherent manner and chronologically. You cannot talk at random, state your main point in your introduction then organize the body accordingly. Then lastly, rename your main points and conclude your final thoughts.

    Lastly, you need to practice a lot. Just knowing the speech is not enough. Make sure to know how long it is and if it fits the time duration allocated to your presentation during the program. You would not want to go over the time limit, which is very unprofessional and makes you look unorganized. By practicing you get to notice mistakes beforehand and you start envisioning how you would fix it. You would also start adding gesture and physical communication to better channel your main points and arguments. You want to know what to say and make sure you know the outline to your speech in order to avoid any awkward silent moments with audience. You also don’t want to bore you audience with an unorganized and slow speech.

    In conclusion, speeches and presentations requires time commitment. You cannot wing a presentation without preparation unless you are a skilled orator. An amateur speaker needs to prepare and gain confidence in order to sound knowledgeable and get the audience engaged.

  5. Preparing for an important presentation can be stressful for many people, including me, which is why I found this article helpful. When it comes to presentations, I usually find myself feeling anxious and unprepared, even if I have rehearsed. Furthermore, once I make it to the front of the room with all eyes on me I tend to draw a blank. The article highlights two of the worst things to do while preparing for a presentation, which are hoping that the presentation will go away and worrying about it. However, I think it is difficult, at least for my personality, not to worry about a presentation or an assignment. On the other hand, it makes sense to confront and visualize the presentation beforehand to avoid stress.
    The article shares five steps for preparing a presentation that will help minimize stress. The steps in order are learning the logistics, create presentation content, choreography/staging, visualizing success, and lastly rehearsing the final presentation. Firstly, learning the logistics entails figuring out who the audience is and what time slot you are presenting. It is important to learn who your audience is because they will affect the way in which you choose to style your presentation. In addition, knowing in what order you are presenting in can help you construct the presentation; for instance, if I am presenting in the middle time slot, then I know that I will have to keep my audience engaged. The second step has to do with establishing the actual content of the presentation, which is easier after the first step is completing. The third step, deals with the format of the presentation, in many cases formatting a presentation would include using PowerPoint. I was taught that PowerPoint should be utilized during a presentation as a visual for my audience rather than the actual presentation. To go off that, I think that people often overuse tools like PowerPoint during presentations because many read off the screen and rely too much on it. In reality, presentation tools should be for the audience and not for the presenter. The fourth step, visualizing success, is a positive way to prep yourself for a presentation. It is important to believe that you will be successful and have confidence during a presentation because an audience can tell if the presenter is nervous. Furthermore, the audience will not trust the presenter if he or she stuttering or unsure of what they are presenting, which will discredit everything they are saying. Lastly, rehearsing is an obvious way to prepare for a presentation. Moreover practicing will give the presenter a chance to hear the full presentation and make adjustments if needed. Although rehearsing seems obvious, many people feel that they can do a presentation without practicing and by just winging it. By completing these five steps, a presenter will be less likely to be stressed during their presentation and more confident as they deliver their information to the audience.

  6. Since childhood, I have always been afraid of public speaking. Whenever I had a presentation, I would feel sweaty, turn red, shake, stress, and stutter. I would also tend to forget what to say. My biggest anxiety was speaking alone in front of the audience and fear of being judged by others. Somebody like me can relate to this article, as I was the only one in my family who would be anxious speaking alone in front of the audience. The night before the presentation, I would be worried and tensed. As the author mentioned, “A recent study about dealing with stress highlighted two of the worst ways to deal with that pesky phenomenon: worrying about it without solving anything specific, and fantasizing that the whole thing will just go away on its own.” I agree with this statement that worrying makes the presentation worse. I believe worrying causes a lack of confidence and makes you mess up the presentation by not focusing well, talking fast, and stuttering frequently. Worrying is not a solution and will only make you feel uneasy.

    After reading this article “How to Prepare for an Important Presentation”, I realized the mistake I was making my entire life. The whole time, I would not practice rehearsing and would show up when my time arrived to present. Because of my lack of preparation and practice, my grades would not be as good. The author specified an excellent point, which is to rehearse or practice the presentation before the presentation day. I finally understood why my presentation was not good because I would always miss the last step, which is to practice presenting before the presentation day. I have always focused on doing the other things before the presentation, for example, researching, taking notes, making flashcards, creating PowerPoint slides, etc., but the most important part I always missed, which was rehearsal. As stated by Naina Chawla, “Practice makes the man perfect, struggle makes the man achieve success.” I could not agree more with this quote. In my opinion, hard work is the key to success. A person (including me) who rehearse or practice the presentation beforehand will easily combat all the issues such as not being afraid or nervous during the presentation day.

    Presentation or public speaking is time-consuming, therefore a person like me cannot successfully present without proper rehearsal. I believe the other steps that the author mentioned were also essential to prepare for the presentation, but for me, rehearsing is my biggest step. Now I know that I need to practice rehearsing beforehand to do better. By rehearsing, I will feel confident, focused, and prepared. Overall, I found this article eye-opening and very helpful.

  7. This article was very personal for me because although I am a very outgoing person in front of people that know me I find it to be very difficult to speak in front of large group of people or a group of people that I am familiar with. One thing that caught my eye in the article was the sequence of events in order to prepare yourself for a presentation. In order for you to feel comfortable speaking about the information that you are presenting you must know the information yourself before trying to inform others. I struggle with anxiety so no matter how familiar I am with a topic I find it difficult once I am in front of people.
    If you would have asked me before going into college I would have given you the advice to look past the audience and focus on something behind them, so you make sure that you are always looking forward. After takin oral communications I feel that is probably the worst advice anyone can give. As the article mentions in step four, “Now visualize success.” You must visualize yourself doing the best presentation that you have ever given. It is not about being better than the rest of your classmates or being the best, but it is about being better than yourself and better than your previous presentation. I find it very helpful to make eye contact with the audience in order to focus. Personally, I make eye contact with familiar faces and faces that I feel more comfortable speaking to about the information in the presentation so that I assure I am doing my best.
    Typically, when you have a big presentation I find rehearsing it to people like your siblings, or your parents or even your closest friends very helpful. More often than not when reading a presentation at loud you will not only recognize your mistakes, but you will know what you need to work on in order to make it better. As Morgan mentions, slides are not the key to a successful presentation. Growing up teachers centered presentations on PowerPoints, but the PowerPoint is the visual for the audience, you should not base your information and what you have to say solely on what is on the slides. If you wanted to be informed about a new topic would you trust someone who is staring at the slides while presenting the information? Many people say “I’ll just wing it” but if you want success and to learn how to actually rely information in front of people then rehearsing and practicing what you want to say is the most essential thing to do.

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