Just because you wrote your presentation – (OK, most of it. Or your bit if it’s a team effort) – don’t think you needn’t rehearse. Creating your content and delivering your presentation are two very different things. Ask anyone who’s ever overlooked that point – like the social media bigwig who flew in to deliver his presentation to a few hundred of us, only to discover his slides wouldn’t work. He didn’t handle the glitch terribly well; nor did he handle the exasperation of the audience when it became all too apparent that he was lost without his deck. We all agreed he seemed very relieved when he was finally able to leave the stage. Hopefully he learned the lesson. Your driving, your golf swing or skiing technique won’t improve by reading a book. When it comes to performing, whether on the green, track or the podium, there’s no substitute for practising what you will be doing.
When you rehearse, you will be able to:
- Perform a quality check to ensure your presentation makes sense and flows logically.
- Check your timing and edit if necessary. Overrunning is a sure sign of a presenter who hasn’t rehearsed.
- ‘Learn’ your stuff – I’ve found that audiences will forgive nerves, which usually soon recede, but they won’t forgive ignorance.
- Overcome technical and other unforeseen glitches (as the above-mentioned Mr X found).
- Anticipate questions that may come from the audience and prepare your responses to them.
- Seamlessly weave in examples and stories that bring your content to life.
- Record yourself on your smartphone so you can see and hear what your audience will see and hear, before they do. That’s right – on your feet, out loud. Muttering nervously at your screen only prepares you for… muttering nervously at your screen.
- Figure out where and when to pause, or ask a rhetorical question, get a show of hands or use your voice and/or body to emphasise a point.
- Refine your introduction and close. We can take too long on the intro; aim to quickly deliver sound reasons why your audience should listen to what you have to say. We can completely ignore the close – at our peril, as that’s the last impression we leave the audience with. Both the intro and close are more about performance than content, so it pays to rehearse them more.
- Minimise nerves – simply because you will KNOW you’ve rehearsed.
You may also find this blog post useful: DOs & DON’Ts for visual aids.
Want to find out more about presentation skills? Please get in touch – I work with groups and individuals.
Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’