85% of Your Professional Success is Related to How Well You Communicate… Will You Pass the Test?
At this point, you shouldn’t need any more information to prove the value of being a good presenter, especially, if you want to be at the top of your field.
People fear public speaking more than anything else, so the few that are able to do so in an impactful manner will rise to the top.
Practice. (Yes “we talkin’ bout practice” again).
There is no way around it. If you fail to practice, you practice to fail.
Yes, you’ve dedicated a lot of time so far to your presentation. Organizing the content and designing the slides can certainly be challenging. But the work is not done yet. In fact, you owe it to yourself to keep working hard because, if not, you will waste the effort you’ve put in so far.
A presentation is basically a performance. In all forms of art, there is a lot of rehearsing. In fact, all the hard work is done when rehearsing. The performance itself shouldn’t be hard because at that point you should know your material by heart.
It is the same with a presentation. You have to put in the time! How much should you practice and how should you practice?
That’s exactly what we are going to cover in this article. We will share with you the process we use when preparing for a presentation.
Keep in mind that we are both introverts, so this is not natural for us. Yet, because we have a process that we’ve tested and tweaked, we now know that we can deliver every time.
Before reading this article you might want to take a look at the first three of this series:
The Presentation is Easy, Practice is Hard
As Alejandro mentioned, the hard work comes during practice while the actual presentation is fairly simple. This is true for musical performances, athletic competitions, and presentations. Going through multiple repetitions creates muscle memory, that’s how our bodies operate biologically. We might as well take advantage of our biology to succeed academically and professionally.
I will give two of my “secrets” on presenting which have allowed me to always feel comfortable on stage, no matter the size of the audience.
Starting with visualization. Years ago I worked out 3-hours a day. I was a personal trainer and loved to be in the gym. One of my mentors was an alternate on the Canadian Women’s Powerlifting team. She was only ~130 lbs, yet could easily clean and press double her body weight. Over the course of a semester, she taught me the mechanics of powerlifting and I saw my strength go to new levels. One of the amazing things I learned was visualization.
She explained that a clean lift occurs before you even touch the weights. This happens by clearing your mind and visualizing the steps of walking up to the bar, placing your feet in the proper position, gripping the bar, and thinking through each mechanical movement. The actual lift was easy as the mental decisions had already been made.
The same is true with presentations. I visualize the entire process. What will I wear, when will I leave to make it to the presentation early, what device will I use (my computer, the organizer’s computer, etc.), where will I stand, will I walk through the audience or stay on a stage, and numerous other questions. After visualizing the details, the presentation becomes the focus and I can rehearse what I am going to say without worrying about all the little items.
I test what I am going to say in numerous ways. I usually set a timer for the amount of time I have to speak and run through my presentation. Yet, I rarely practice the same content. Instead, I test out different openings, jokes, questions to ask the audience, and closings. I make notes, mentally and in my Moleskin, of the content which sounds the best.
Then I combine the best parts for a complete presentation. I know it sounds like a lot of work. It is, yet there are ways to compound your time. For example, I do most of this testing while driving. Houston is known for terrible traffic and I have clients all over the city which means I drive hours weekly. This gives me time to practice presentations, including sales pitches, frequently. Specifically, with sales presentations, I will test different ways to present deliverables and go through any answers to a variety of questions.
There you have it, my practice routine is a combination of visualization and testing different ways to present. Doing so allows the presentation to feel smooth as I am rarely surprised since I went through all the scenarios beforehand.
It is as simple as that.
Anyone that says they “wing it” does so because they are afraid of putting in the work and then failing. Or because they want to have an excuse under their sleeve just in case something goes wrong.
If you want to be a top performer you can’t leave your presentations to chance. Yes, you might not always control all the elements. But everything that is under your control should be flawless.
How much practice? I will leave that to you. I practice as much as needed to know I will be able to influence in a valuable way.
There are 3 types of practice I do:
- Slide Practice
I never script my presentations. Maybe the opening and closing, but everything else should flow. For this reason, I usually have an outline and for the first 2 or 3 runs, I do them with my slides and notes somewhere. This allows me to focus on the content, and then I might make edits after this round.
- Ongoing Practice
Once I have a clear idea of the flow of the presentation, and my key points, I then practice whenever possible. When I’m driving, when I’m in the shower, when I’m running, etc. At this point, I am just doing the talking part. The goal is to make it as smooth as possible. There will be some spots where I’m struggling, maybe it’s a word or phrase that it’s hard to pronounce for me so I switch that, etc.
- Final Practice
This time, ideally, I would have at least one or two people in the audience. This can be a family member, a co-worker, or someone that can give you feedback. I’ve made last minute edits thanks to feedback that has helped me take my presentation to the next level.
You should practice as much as needed so that you feel comfortable with your material. Just like Matt mentioned, your presentation should go as close to the way you have visualized it.
For some presentations, you might need to start practicing just a day or two before the presentation. For others, you might need weeks. Also, as your skill level improves you might only need to get comfortable with the material because everything else will be natural for you.
Be sure to practice your movements, your intonation, pauses, etc. You have to deliver with your full body because 93% of communications is non-verbal.
See How We Present
We have a great opportunity for you. Matt and I will be conducting another Networking Boot Camp and we want to invite you. At the boot camp, you will learn the basics of how to open, maintain, and close conversations and networking events, and how to maintain those professional relationships.
Not only will you immediately become a better networker, you will also see how we present and can steal our style . . . I mean, be inspired. Notice how we set up our slides, transition, and engage with the audience. Register today by clicking the button below.