Preparing for and Giving a Presentation

Do you want to feel confident when you give your next presentation? 
The key to being confident when giving a presentation is thorough preparation.  Preparation begins with choosing the topic, followed by outlining the content, creating visuals, and practicing for effective delivery.

Topic Selection
Choosing the topic for your presentation is critical; be sure to choose something you are passionate about and of interest to your audience.  Defining your audience will help you throughout the preparation process.  What age groups and unique attributes are represented?  Are they knowledgeable about the topic?  What are their expectations?

Presentation Outline
Next, outline the content to aid research and information gathering while allowing the outline to also be informed by new material.  Once finalized, the outline serves as your guide for content development, creation of visuals, and delivery of the presentation.   If, at the outset, you have difficulty creating a linear outline, first try brainstorming the topic through mind mapping; it is a terrific mind tool used to generate ideas and concepts, as well as their associations.   Then, write the outline and review it for the organization and flow of ideas.

Creating Visuals
When creating visuals, only use the outline text as bullet points and save the detailed content for notes to reference when you speak.  Do not include your entire presentation content in your visuals; the audience should not be able to read the presentation along with you.  Keep your audience in mind as you create slides, with the goal being to convey your message through formatting, graphics, animation, and transitions.  There should be at least six slides, including an introduction and conclusion.[i]  The middle slides are to convey why you are interested in the topic and its relevance for attendees.  Formatting the slides to increase readability, while using visual displays judiciously:

  • Graphics and pictures should not be distorted.
  • Animation must not distract from the message.
  • Transitions ought to draw the audience to the message, not make them nauseous.

There are several presentation software applications[ii] available for developing presentations with exciting attention-getters—use them sparingly, however.  Just because an application has many bells and whistles does not mean they should all be used in one presentation.  A thoroughly prepared presentation climaxes with the delivery and is bookended with audience contact.

Effective Delivery
On the day of the event, arrive early to greet members of the audience, maintain eye contact during the presentation (gradually turning to include the entire audience), and be prepared to answer questions at the end.  Your voice should be clear, using a conversational tone; direct (without “umms” and “ahhs”), absent jargon, and void of meaningless repetitions.  Use large arm gestures to draw attention to a point.   And, being mindful of your audience, rehearse the timings.  Knowing the content and practicing with the outline will lead to confidence building.  As long as the outline is covered, there is no need to memorize the content word for word.  Knowing your material well can liberate you from the podium—allowing you to move about and interact with the audience.  However, if you are using visuals, be sure to stand near the screen so all attendees can see you and the visual at the same time.  Lastly, do not worry if you are nervous.  Nervousness can provide energy to be released when giving an interesting presentation.

Closing Reminder
The time spent in knowing your audience, preparing the material, and following up creates a poised and convincing presentation.

[i] A reference slide should also be included whenever there is use of other’s works in accordance to copyright law and standards of writing, such as APA.

[ii] See, for example, Custom Show which features an April 8, 2016 web posting by Justin Croxton titled 31 Presentation Software & PowerPoint Alternatives for 2016:

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