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A beginner’s guide to preparing presentations

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

As your career develops and you climb that executive ladder, the need to give presentations increases. For most of your career, you’ve probably side-stepped opportunities, come up with elaborate excuses, or delegated to colleagues but now it’s time to put your big girls (or boys) pants on and step into the spotlight.

So, what actually is a presentation and why do we need to put ourselves through this torture?

The word in itself sounds so formal, doesn’t it?

The dictionary defines it as “a speech or talk in which a new product, idea, or piece of work is shown and explained to an audience”

So straight away you’re thinking it’s something to be taken seriously, you have to be mega professional, and you start piling on the pressure to live up to your own unrealistic expectations to be perfect and not make any mistakes.

REMEMBER Every single inspirational speaker you’ve seen on stage at a conference or giving a TedTalk has at one stage given their first presentation. FACT!

They were beginners too once upon a time and it’s taken them literally years to perfect the art of making it look easy. So, stop taking it so seriously, start by looking at yourself as a beginner and let’s learn some simple facts about presentations.

What's the purpose of a presentation?

There are many reasons why you might be asked to give a presentation but let’s keep it simple here shall we?

  1. To inform – speaking to a group of people all at the same time maybe in a seminar or a webinar is a great way to share your knowledge and help your audience to learn from your experience.

  2. To inspire – Maya Angelou said that ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel’ If you want to inspire your audience to embrace change, sharing personal stories where you can speak from the heart will give your message impact and make it memorable for your audience.

  3. To influence – the difference between informing and influencing is explaining WHY its important to use your product or service using evidence to back it up. In his infamous TedTalk and brilliant book “Start with Why” Simon Sinek explains how great leaders inspire action when they start with Why.

Where do you start?

If you’ve been thrown in at the deep end with your presentation and you’re wondering where to start you might feel your only option is to turn to Microsoft Powerpoint, open a slide deck and spend hours and hours cobbling together 20 or 30 slides with all the stats, graphs, and images you can muster. Because obviously, the slides are what’s important right? That’s what your audience wants?

No, they don’t! They are there to see you, they want to hear what you have to say.

So, start with your audience. Who are they? What are they interested in?

Focus on your audience and you’re off to a winner straight away.

3 P’s to set you up for success

Prepare - your 3 memorable messages

There is a temptation to throw everything but the kitchen sink at your audience. It will increase your credibility, right? This actually has the opposite effect. Our brain can only retain so much information and so it’s better to provide 3 memorable messages that leave your audience wanting more.

Personalise – with stories relevant to the audience

“People love stories! The best speakers make it look like they add the stories off-the-cuff, but they are always prepared in advance. Come up with 3 stories or case studies to illustrate your 3 key messages and it will make them even more memorable. The key is to make them relevant and relatable – oh and keep it short and sweet 😊

Personable – be yourself!

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?! But when we are trying to be professional or taking the presentation too seriously, we don’t always come across in the best light. Being prepared helps us to feel more comfortable and as a result we’re more relaxed, we can have fun and people see the real us.

So next time you get asked to deliver a presentation grab that opportunity with both hands! It’s another chance to learn and develop your newfound skill and you never know; you might just enjoy it!

You can read my story about how I learned from spectacular failure in my first ever presentation to go on to host events and award ceremonies

If I can do it, so can you!

Speak soon


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