Category: Presentation Skills
You’re almost ready to practice your presentation in our Live Practice Area! We know you may be ready and raring to go, but let’s discuss preparation first. It’s as crucial as the other phases of the process leading up to a great presentation.
1) Learn the material
One of the MOST important things you can do to present well is to learn your material inside and out. Being totally immersed in the subject can give you confidence, make you come across like an expert, help you answer tough questions from the audience, and more.
Not knowing your content can make you worried or anxious before and during the presentation, erode your credibility with the audience, and blow your presentation.
It’s a no-brainer: Prepare like crazy. LEARN your material. Live it. Breathe it. Don’t stress over it, just learn it.
2) Visualize Success
Visualizing success is a common technique in professional sports today. Psychologists determined that if people imagine themselves doing something well again and again, they accomplish several things: One, they become more confident of a positive, successful outcome, and two, they are less intimidated with the process since they’re more familiar with it. Third, they perform better because they actually REMEMBER having done the thing before! You can borrow a page from this technique for public speaking: Visualize every aspect of your successful presentation!
You can also take physical steps to augment your visualization efforts. For example, can you gain access to the place where you’ll be speaking? If so, go there ahead of time. Get to know every aspect of it. Walk the same walk you will make on the day of the presentation. Study it, memorize it. It will become familiar to you. Visualize it all happening successfully. Stand there at the podium, imagining the group you’ll be speaking to. Picture yourself giving a great presentation, and picture the crowd loving it!
If you do this well enough and often enough, when the time comes you will probably feel like you did it already, which should help you do a better job from experience.
You’ll also want to visualize some tough moments and then go through what you’ll do in those situations. Study possible bumps in the road. Airline pilots use simulators to improve responses to what could go wrong so that if it happens they know the steps to take and don’t freak out.
Don’t terrorize yourself, but consider what you’ll do in a few situations: the audience appears low on energy; you’re told just prior to your presentation that you need to speak longer or shorterthan you originally planned; a power outage occurs 10 minutes into your 20 minute presentation; a heckler tries to throw you off-track; somebody passes out during your talk; you name it! You can actually have a little fun with these thoughts, which might make you more at ease heading into your presentation.
Practice does make perfect, as long as you’re using the right techniques. Otherwise practice can ingrain the wrongpatterns, and you’ll have to un-learn them once you realize the errors.
If you ever wanted to read a great book on how important practice is, we recommend Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell does an exceptional job of showing that many famous people we all thought were prodigies (“naturally gifted”) actually are not. They ALLpracticed a lot. Gladwell will explain that 10,000 hours is the magic number when it comes to how much time needed to achieve the highest levels of success in something. Don’t worry--we’re not recommending 10,000 hours. But you’ll be amazed at how far you can come in a few practice sessions with the right preparation!
End of Part 1 of 2