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April 13, 2017

Presentations: Why You Need to Be Prepared!

Keith Jackson

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I've been fortunate in not having to sit through a presentation that completely "bombed," and I've been doubly fortunate in that the few presentations that I've delivered left me, my audience, and my organization unscathed!

But I've seen one or two that suffered technical hitches – projector bulbs blowing, dodgy microphones, and the like – and, once or twice, I've felt for a speaker who simply lost the interest of his or her audience, and ploughed on despite its increasingly fidgety and borderline disrespectful behavior.

Speaking as an attendee more than a deliverer, it seems that preparation is the key word when it comes to presentations. Thorough preparation can eliminate most of the mistakes and pitfalls of delivering an effective and informative presentation, which you can explore in our new infographic, 10 Common Presentation Mistakes.

Preparation can also help you to deal with any unexpected problems that you encounter on the day, such as the equipment failures mentioned above.

Delivering Great Presentations

If I may warm to my theme as an "armchair expert," the presentations that I enjoyed most or found most useful were delivered by speakers who shared a number of characteristics:

  • Enthusiasm: it was obvious from the start that the speaker had a passion for, and an in-depth understanding of, his subject. His enthusiasm was infectious and kept his audience engaged.
  • Relevance: she had done her homework on her audience, and she knew what it wanted from the presentation. Her content was pitched at the right level, neither too conceptual nor too bogged down in detail. (You can learn more about this with our article, The Ladder of Abstraction.)
  • Confidence: a speaker who is well prepared, enthusiastic and knowledgeable will have a head start when it comes to confidence. Chances are, he did experience some degree of "stage fright" or presentation nerves, but he hid it well! His body language may have been rehearsed, but he used it to draw in his audience and communicate his message effectively.
  • Resourcefulness: a speaker will usually have either detailed notes or some pointers that she can refer to, to ensure that she covers everything that she needs to say. But there are times when a presentation can go "off piste," either as a result of some audience interaction or if she remembers an entertaining anecdote or example and shares it. Managing momentary unscripted elements of a presentation, without losing its focus, can engage an audience and boost its appreciation of her skill and command of the situation.

It would be an exaggeration to say that your presentation skills could "make or break" your career, but developing a reputation for delivering great presentations will likely be enormously beneficial for your prospects.

What are your experiences of great, and not so great, presentations? Leave a comment, below.

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