This series of posts is for those of you who’ve been asked to speak at a networking or other business event, when you’re new to public speaking, and you need some advice on how to ensure your presentation goes smoothly.
Rehearsed, Relaxed, and In Control
Giving a successful presentation hinges on you being relaxed and in control. And once you’ve given the presentation, your work isn’t done: there are things you need to do on the day to make the most of what you’ve presented.
You’ve prepared your presentation well in advance. You’ve rehearsed it several times. You know your stuff, and you’re confident you can put it over well.
Always Have a Plan B
What could possibly go wrong? You’d be amazed. Be prepared for the unexpected. Here are just a few of the problems I’ve had to deal with, and what I’ve learned to do. Always have a Plan B!
- The promised projector, laptop and screen aren’t there.
Take your own kit if you have it, or ask ahead of time what the fallback will be. The organiser may be able to get someone to be on standby to provide a laptop, for example, or ask the venue if they have an overhead projector. On one occasion, I made a screen out of flipchart paper and stuck it to the wall – but those materials weren’t at the venue – I’d taken my own flipchart and sticky tape just in case.
- Your presentation doesn’t work on your computer, or your computer doesn’t work with the projector provided.
Take a copy of your presentation on a USB stick, and maybe on a CD as well. When every piece of equipment failed on me once, I hurriedly photocopied enough copies of the presentation for the audience to have while I talked. Good job I had taken the presentation along, printed in a suitable format.
- The timing changes.
You were prepared for a twenty minute talk and it now needs to be delivered in just ten minutes. Or even worse, you now need to fill a full forty minutes. Be aware that this can happen, and have a rough idea of the material you can omit or extend.
- You can’t get access to the building or room, and the people you expected to be there to help you are late.
Self-reliance is a wonderful thing. Be ready to do anything to make your event go well. That includes befriending and cajoling the venue’s staff, moving furniture, registering attendees as they arrive – yes, anything!
Here’s my checklist of things I have with me when I give a presentation (in a PDF file).
Presumably, you’re proud of what you presented and think the audience should have thought it was valuable. The first thing you must do is check!
Place an evaluation sheet on every chair, and ask people to complete it at the end. If they’re pushed for time, you could instead email them a link to an online version immediately afterwards. You’ll find that the number of responses you get will likely be fewer online. People are more likely to complete the form if they’re asked to do it on the spot. If you don’t know what feedback you need, take a look at the event evaluation form I usually use.
When you end your presentation, you probably want people to take action. It should be very easy for them to get more information from you. You can send them a summary of your talk by email, or post an article about it on your blog. In any case, make sure they know where to go to find out more. Consider giving every attendee your business card by leaving it on their seat before your presentation begins.
So that’s it, a series of posts that walked you through the things you’ll need to do to make your speaking opportunity as successful as it can be. I’d love to know what you do with this information. Tell me in the comments what you think.
Review the whole Making the Most of Your Speaking Opportunity series: