7 Steps to Improve Your Next Presentation

Since the beginning of time, people have prepared presentations for audiences for a variety of reasons. From Socrates planning for his Defense Speech to you preparing for yours, there are a series of steps you should follow to ensure that your presentation is the best it can be. Using technological advancements over the last ten years, Erticulate offers a new way to prepare, practice, and ultimately improve your confidence in presenting. In addition to what we offer, here are seven steps you should follow before delivering your presentation. If you take the time to do this preparation, you will provide as good a performance as possible.

Step 1 – Identify your Presentation Goal – Start with the end in mind

Step 2 – Know Your Audience – Be empathetic to what they want and do not want

Step 3 – Understand the Forum – Know the environment you are in

Step 4 – What is your Residual Message – What is the one thing your audience should remember?

Step 5 – Select your Presentation Story – Which format will you use to deliver your story?

Step 6 – How to Represent Data – What type of graphs should you use?

Step 7 – Practice, Practice, Practice – What to do to present most effectively

Step 1 – Identify your Presentation Goal

You have an idea that you want to unleash. Spending extra time preparing your presentation will ensure that the idea that you communicate in your performance has the most significant impact on your audience.

Your goal will determine the type of story you build. There are six different types of presentations: persuade, entertain, instruct, inform, stimulate, and inspire. What kind of story will you tell?

In the education setting, most presentations will be to inform. Is this to educate your class on what you have learned or what you know? Or is it to persuade your classmates to particular positions or solutions? Identifying this goal will help you determine how best to tell your story.

Step 2 - Know your Audience

In the classroom setting, even though the class is full of classmates, it is your professor/teacher who will be assigning your grade. With that said, delivering a compelling presentation that engages your audience will be more memorable. However, there is no guarantee of a good grade if you don’t do what your professor asks you to do. Be sure to build and deliver the type of presentation, with the expected content.

As you prepare your presentation, ask yourself, are your instructor and classmates data-driven? Do they respond better to visuals, or do they prefer conversation? These questions will inform how you present information to your class.

Step 3 – Understand the Forum

If you are delivering a presentation to your class, you most likely know the layout of the classroom, but you might not, and it would be beneficial to get a sense of the room before getting there to present.

To Move or Not to Move? When giving a presentation, do you prefer to stand at a podium or move around? For example, if you like to move around while presenting, it is good to understand where to stand and not to stand.

Arrive early. When presenting, arrive early to familiarize yourself with the room layout, test the equipment, walk the relevant area visualizing the critical moments of your presentation, and where you will be. Understand what you will be experiencing while creating an experience for your class.

Step 4 – What is your Residual Message

What do you want your audience to remember? What you want them to remember is called the residual message, or the one thing that you want your audience to remember from your presentation. The Ebbinghaus Curve, better known as the Forgetting Curve, demonstrates that over time your audience will not be able to retain as much as it has taken in. Because of this, it is essential that you identify the residual message that you want the audience to remember. Some claim your audience will recall as little as 10% of your presentation. Assume that it is accurate and work to identify a clear residual message. The message will help ensure you deliver the best performance you can.

There is an old marketing adage called The Rule of Seven, which states that a person needs to hear your message seven times before they will retain it. When building your presentation, be sure to say the residual message numerous times for maximum effect.

Step 5 – Select your Presentation Story

Based on the type of presentation you identified from Step 1, there is most likely a format that fits your presentation type. For example, if you are preparing your class presentation, you are most likely to develop a presentation to inform. Your teacher may have asked you to research a topic and present your findings to the class. In that case, the teacher/professor usually will recommend a construct. To effectively communicate with your audience, consider the following format:

  • Compelling Statement – Get their attention with a statistic or quote
  • Residual Message – “The one thing I want you to remember when this is over is…”
  • “What is in it for me” or “WIIFM” – “You should listen to me today because…”
  • Topic #1 – up to two supporting slides
  • Topic #2 – up to two supporting slides
  • Topic #3 – up to two supporting slides
  • Conclusion – What does it all mean

If you did academic research, then we recommend a specific format for that type of presentation:

  • Introduction
  • Research Question or Theoretical Framework
  • Methodology
  • Background / Literature Review
  • Discussion of Data/Results
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion

The persuasive presentation takes on the format of a problem-solution dichotomy:

  • Compelling Statement – Get their attention with a statistic or quote
  • Residual Message – “The one thing I want you to remember when this is over is…”
  • WIIFM – “You should listen to me today because…”
  • Problem – up to two supporting slides
  • Solution – up to two supporting slides
  • Benefit – up to two supporting slides
  • Ask – What do you want them to do

Be sure to pick the format that best suits your presentation goal.

Step 6 - How to Represent Data

If you have data for your presentation, understand how best to represent that data. When you serve your data in the right format, your data becomes consumable information. Your job is to describe the data for your audience to understand. There are some excellent resources on how to represent your data. Gene Zelazny has long been an expert in this field and is an excellent resource for understanding how to represent data. Here is one example called saying it with charts (https://consultingtoolkit.com/saying-it-with-charts/).

Step 7 - Practice, Practice, Practice

Everyone agrees: if you want to be better, you must practice. Vince Lombardi considered the adage “practice makes perfect” and took it a step further, saying, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Vince Lombardi was on the field coaching his players, providing the necessary feedback to get better. To achieve perfect practice, you should find mentors to provide constructive feedback. The name of the game is selecting the right mentors, incorporating their input, and practicing to perfection.

Luke Walton, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, had a policy that if you are going to take three-point shots in a game, you need to make 100 three-pointers in practice, in addition to the team practice. If you are only going to give one or two presentations a semester or school year, you need to practice more than if you did it all the time.

Mark Twain once posed the question about what it takes to give an excellent impromptu speech, and he quipped, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

Practicing will help identify your blind spots. If you do not give presentations often, you probably have blind spots, meaning things that you do and mannerisms you exhibit that are outside of your awareness. Becoming aware of these blind spots is crucial for you to give the best presentation you can. If you have a blind spot, you don’t know it is there. You need to look for it, and you need to ask others to tell you about it.

How do you find your blind spots? Practice. Record, Watch, Share, Feedback, Repeat. At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that there was no technology available to enable practicing presentations digitally until recently. Most experts affirm that recording yourself and watching yourself is a vital way to ensure you can improve. Using the new and innovative Erticulate platform, you can:

  • Record yourself, forcing you to say the words out loud
  • Watch yourself, seeing yourself say the words out loud and also know if you have any mannerisms that you will want to change
  • Solicit feedback, share your recorded session with others for their feedback
  • Receive feedback, review what your mentors say you can do to give a better presentation
  • Re-record yourself, watch to ensure you are incorporating the feedback

Lastly, review our Presentation Tips for what to do before and during your presentation.

In summary, spend the necessary time preparing for your presentation, which includes understanding your goal, audience, forum, message, story, format, and most importantly, practice. If you do these things before getting up in front of a group, you will give the best presentation you can. To help you be better, Erticulate will optimize the process of practicing, receiving feedback, and giving feedback.

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