Practice Makes Perfect: Preparing for your Presentation

You’ve collaborated with your client and put together a stellar presentation. It takes into account your audience, the intended message, and the desired takeaway. It involves some interaction and engagement as well as humorous anecdotes to keep things interesting. While all of these things are essential, without the right amount of practice, they provide less impact. If you are stumbling over your words or losing your place, the audience isn’t going to be as engaged.

Practicing not only ensures that you are familiar with the content, it can also help to reduce nervousness. If you are confident in knowing what you want to say and how to say it, you are likely to feel more at ease because it is one less thing you are worrying about. Memorize the opening and closing sections so that they come more naturally. You can start and end your presentation on a solid note. Here are some other strategies to try:

Practice with Notes

It is okay to write out your entire presentation to start, but then create an outline version that hits on key speaking points and has short reminders of what you want to say. Practice using these notes so that you are not tempted to simply stand before the audience and read your presentation word for word. If you should happen to lose your place, you can glance for a keyword about where you are rather than trying to find your place in the full speech. Short notes can jog your memory about where you were headed.

When using PowerPoint as part of your presentation, create each slide as a cue card for yourself. Use very brief bullet points that are no longer than seven words – though preferably no more than five. This will not only prevent you from falling into the trap of reading each slide to the audience, but can also help to keep you on track and eliminate the need for additional note cards. Even when not using a PowerPoint presentation to accompany your message, this can be an effective tool for building your notes because it lends itself to short, succinct phrases to organize your thoughts.

Speak Out Loud

It is a natural habit to read in your head rather than out loud. Mental practice can certainly be beneficial in helping you to master the content and flow. However, saying your speech out loud can also have valuable results. This allows you to practice pronouncing each word and sentence. You can also learn to better regulate your pace. Time yourself to see how long it takes you to give the entire presentation. Compare this to your target timeframe to see whether you are going too quickly or slowly.

Oftentimes being nervous can cause you to speak more quickly than you normally would. Also, the pace at which you speak and read in your mind differs from that of when you are saying it out loud. Speak more slowly than you think you should and this will probably be just right.

Record yourself Practicing

Using a video camera to record yourself can allow you to see yourself as the audience does. Pay attention to facial expressions, enunciation, and body language. For some people practicing in front of a mirror can also help. Another option is to use a tape recorder. You can hear your tone, inflections, clarity, and pace. Recording yourself can allow you to make necessary adjustments for a more impactful and professional presentation.

Use a Live Audience

Gather some friends or family members to listen to you rehearse. This gives you the opportunity to practice in front of a small crowd and gain feedback. They can help you to identify what is working and what is not and become more comfortable speaking in front of others.

Exceptional public speaking and presentation making skills are essential for business professionals. They can help you to elevate yourself to the next level and portray confidence and leadership. To refine and boost your skills to maximize impact, contact JP Kantor Consulting today to find out more about our executive coaching, consulting, management training, and professional development.