Five Things to Do the Week Before a Presentation

by Christine Chadwick

Some people claim they fear public speaking more than they fear death. But now that you must give a presentation, there's no turning back. There are, however, several productive actions you can take the week before the event. These tips can help you stay calm and give an informative, compelling presentation.

1. Know the Audience

If you haven't already, talk to the person who has organised the event. Prepare a list of questions to ask. Find out how many people will attend. Establish what they have in common: are they university students or working professionals? Find out their level of knowledge about the topic and the tone of the gathering.

2. Know the Venue

Ask if there will be a screen at the event and, if so, what size it will be. Inquire about all the technical aspects of the space. Is it large enough to warrant the use of a microphone? Will it be wired, wireless, or fixed to the podium? Can you bring your own laptop? If possible, set up your presentation so you can see the next slide before the audience does. Determine which sort of slideshow software is preferred (e.g., Keynote, PowerPoint). If the presentation is going to be recorded, keep in mind that your material should engage a viewer as much as a member of a live audience.

3. Perfect Your Slides

Your slides should be captivating to look at. If you are not the creative type, refer to a website or book to give you ideas. Note that you should have the content of your presentation prepared at least a week in advance. Once you know what you want to say, divide the material into slides. A slide should have a maximum of four points. If there isn't a smooth transition between slides, consider changing the order.

Once you have your first "draft presentation", record yourself going through it. Are there places where your voice drops as you read? At what points do you feel bored? Rewrite the slide or change the order of your presentation if you notice weak spots.

4. Rehearse

Once you have your slides finalised and in order, commit to memory the titles of each slide. Repeat these titles to yourself when possible. Tape your presentation again, but don't read this time; just use the slides to cue yourself, and look right into the lens as much as you can. Be sure you're standing up. If you can move the slides onto your phone, you'll have a convenient way to rehearse at any time.

5. Do a Trial Run

Run through your presentation in front of friends and colleagues who will be candid about your performance. It's helpful to get suggestions from a different point of view. Another benefit is that you can watch their posture and facial expressions as you speak. If you notice the audience is not engaged, it's time to get back to work.