Big Presentation Tips

This past week I did a thirty-minute talk as the leadoff presentation of our internal symposium.  This was one of my larger talks I have done, and it was an important one in my professional world.  A few days have past and I have had a chance to reflect on the overall experience.  I am happy to report the talk itself went well, based on the feedback I got.  Most importantly, my boss was happy!

Doing great presentations is¬†an required¬†skill for¬†leaders in today’s business world. ¬†I have decided to double my efforts to improve in this area. ¬†I’ve been told I am competent as a speaker, but I would like to become a lot better at it. ¬†It’s probably the best thing I can do to prepare for the next level.

I learned a few valuable lessons that I will apply next time (hopefully) I am invited to do a talk.  The three big lessons were: be clear about your goal, work with a team and rehearse in front of an audience.

Be Clear About Your Goal

In this recent experience, the goal was apparent to me. ¬†I was speaking in front of an external expert and I had a good idea of what he was going to say. ¬†As I was going through preparation, I went back to my objective: to energize and inspire the audience. ¬†Essentially I wanted to “build a bridge” to next speaker. ¬†I found it helpful to remind myself of that objective often during the process. ¬†It helped me stay on point and get the right content in the talk.

Work With a Team

As a senior manager, I have access to a great team in my laboratory. ¬†I brought together a small group of people to help me craft the presentation file, sound out the key messages and provide encouragement and support. ¬†I don’t think you’d need direct reports to build a team to help. ¬†If it’s important enough, you should not have too much trouble getting some teammates to help. ¬†Probably the biggest help my team provided in this experience was to provide encouragement, especially as the talk got closer. ¬†They helped me keep things in perspective.

Rehearse In Front of An Audience

For big presentations, I found it to be critical to give the talk to as large an audience as you can find. ¬†If you can replicate the venue of the talk that is helpful as well. ¬†This will help you figure out the time of your talk, and give you a chance to gather feedback. ¬†As my instructor a few weeks ago said, it’s all about muscle memory. ¬†If you go through a good dress rehearsal, your body will remember how it felt and it will reduce your stress as a speaker.

As I mentioned earlier, I think being clear about the goal, working with a team and rehearsing in front of an audience will be the activities I will focus on next time I get the call to do a big presentation.