Great presentations happen in the preparation, not at the podium

Putting together a presentation shouldn’t be a last-minute job; it’s something that needs thought, it needs time and it does need a bit of brainpower. It also needs a sprinkling of creativity. So when you’re starting to think about what you want to present, your first point should always be: what do I want to get out of this presentation (i.e. what’s the result you want to see), but also what does my audience want to get out of this presentation (i.e. what do they want to take away). You need to make sure that your presentation meets both your objectives and your audience’s objectives.

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If you’re not absolutely sure what your audience wants to get out of the presentation, ask someone. Ask the event organiser, ask a delegate who’s booked to come and see it, and find out what they’d like to take away. It may not be what you expect. They may actually be wanting education and entertainment, whereas you were thinking they wanted new skills. So just think in advance: what does my audience want to get out of this.

The next step is to think about how you’re going to structure your presentation. Any presentation obviously needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end – it’s not rocket science. Your opening needs to grab your audience. Don’t just start with “Hello, my name is”, start with a story, start with an anecdote, start with a really strong visual or video or maybe audio. Think of ways of starting a presentation that are going to establish straightaway that you are somebody worth listening to.

Likewise your ending needs to be strong, needs to send your delegates off on a high; don’t just peter out. Think about how you can bring your presentation to a really memorable conclusion – maybe another strong image or a video, maybe another story, perhaps something that revisits what you started the presentation with. So think about how you can bookmark your presentation with a good strong beginning and ending.

Finally, your presentation needs some structure in the middle. Make sure at any given point your audience knows where you are. So start your presentation by saying “There are three things I’m going to cover today” or “there are five different areas we’re going to look at”. And then work your way through them and each time signpost that you’re about to move on to the next section: “Firstly we’re going to talk about this”, “Now we’re going to move on to talk about that”, have a slide that introduces the new topic so people are always clear where they are.

If you have got a strong opening, a strong closing and a good structure, and you know the objectives for both yourself and your audience, chances are you’re in line to give a great presentation.

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Steve BustinAuthor: Steve Bustin (20 Posts)

I'm a media and communications trainer, working under the Vada Media and Medical Media Training brands, based in Brighton but working nationally and internationally.

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