What do you do to ensure that you, as a person, are fully prepared and ready to do a great presentation for your audience? The problem is most people do not prepare themselves well.
We all know that preparation is the key to effective public speaking. And you will have heard the saying that “Prior Preparation Prevents Pathetically Poor Presentation Performance”. People prepare their content well and they prepare a set of notes and cheat sheets (palm cards or similar reminders). They prepare their PowerPoint slides and audio visual’s and they practise and practise.
Most people check out the venue and prepare for using a lectern or not and they know what type of microphone and audio-visual equipment they will be using. And this is all a necessary and important part of your public speaking preparation. The question I want to ask you is this; what do you do to fully prepare you for your presentation?
Many a well prepared and rehearsed speech can fall flat because the speaker themselves is not well prepared. Here are some tips that you should consider to ensure that you prepare you for every presentation.
1. How will you dress
It is not as simple as wearing your best set of clothes or best suit each time you speak. Your dress standard needs to be matched to that of the audience. I wear a suit and tie when speaking to Lawyers and Accountants as that is the norm for that audience. I wear a smart shirt and jacket, but no tie, when I am speaking to the general public and running workshops. And I wear steal cap boots, jeans and a high vis vest when speaking to the mining sector. Knowing that you will be dressed to match the crowd will help you feel at ease and help you build rapport and connect with your audience. I have seen over dressed speakers and under dressed speakers who have created a disconnect with their audiences.
Every time I speak to a group, I come from a mindset of being of service to my audience. This is called a service mindset. And it is the correct attitude to have because your presentation is about your audience, and for your audience. It is not about you. So, my preparation is around how can I best be of service to this group of people. What problems do they have? What issues or challenges are they facing? What information do they need to move forward and so on? When on stage I focus on being of service to the people in the room. Once again different audiences will need different messages and you will need to check in with your service mindset to ensure you are placing your audience first and serving them.
3. Your attitude
I have a simple rule with my attitude. “Right at this moment in time, there is no place in the whole world that I would rather be than here speaking with you”. You may be tired, have stresses at home, be about to go on a European vacation, but you still need to bring that attitude, of wanting to be with your audience and loving your time with your audience. Your attitude matters and your audience can pick a fake a mile away. It needs to be an attitude of wanting to be there and wanting to be of service to that audience and you must breathe, walk and talk this attitude.
4. Arrive early
I am usually the first person to arrive at a workshop or seminar and I set a benchmark of arriving at least 1 hour before every presentation. My early arrival is not only about ensuring I am familiar and comfortable with my surroundings, the room setup, audio visual equipment, sound and ensuring that everything works the way I need it to. You do need to do those routine checks regardless. For me arriving early is as much about preparing myself mentally and getting familiar with my surroundings. It is time for me, to sit quietly, to relax and to visualise my presentation. I can reconnect with my service mindset and check that my attitude is where I need it to be. I can walk on stage and play my opening and closing words over in my mind. I can imagine my audience in the room. In this way I am ready to go when it is my time to speak.
5. Relax, Deep Breathe, Power Pose
Many people, including myself get nervous before public speaking. It is after all a normal response with many people who do public speaking. The ability to relax, meditate, do deep breathing and just get your physiology and mind in the right place, will help you immensely. And the Amy Cuddy fans will also appreciate doing the Power Pose before walking on stage. Each of us has a different method of dealing with nerves, calming down and preparing. My strategy is called 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds; hold for 5 seconds; breathe out for 5 seconds; do that 5 times. After doing this deliberate slow and deep breathing I find myself calmer and relaxed. Find your own quick relaxation or confidence building exercise that you can use before a presentation. Take time out to practise and embed your preferred method of relaxation so that you can automatically us it before every presentation.
6. Build Resilience
Resilience is bouncing back from things that may go wrong or may challenge you and those unexpected events that occur mid presentation. In public speaking “stuff happens” all the time. The video does not play; the microphone does not work; the power goes off mid workshop; the speaker in front of you goes over time cutting into your time; there is a heckler in the room; you get asked difficult and contentious questions. All of these scenarios will happen at some stage when you are speaking and if you are well prepared and have your resilience strategies in place, you will sail smoothly through them. Resilience is being prepared, adaptable and being able to bounce back. Resilience means that when this “stuff happens” you are calm, in control and have the tools to deal with each event.
We all know how to get ready and prepare a great message, great PowerPoint slides and a great presentation. Yet so many speakers neglect to look after the key cog in the process, you the speaker. What are you going to do to ensure that you are ready and that you are good to go?