Executive Communication Expert
3 Easy Steps to Solid Prep for a Dynamic Presentation
Has late-night cramming for the old college exam turned into a lifelong habit? Do you find yourself tweaking a client presentation an hour before you’re due to deliver it? Are you still racking your brain for that perfect analogy the day before you walk into the board room with the big recommendation? Do you frequently find yourself still Googling stats minutes before you need to use them at your industry meeting?
If you answered yes to any of the previous questions and you’d like a little more breathing room and a bigger safety net in your planning system, consider these three steps to prepare for a new presentation—or to update a current presentation for a new audience:
1. Feed your brain a healthy diet of organic ingredients. No, I’m not talking about real foodstuffs here (although eating healthy is a good idea as well). The ingredients I’m referring to include books, self-development recordings, training products, biographies, documentaries, quotations, proverbs, and inspirational messages. Of course, feeding your brain new information is not a new idea. But I’m talking about what, why, when, and how to feed it. If you feel yourself going stale, choose fresh organic ingredients to broaden and deepen your knowledge base. Read, listen, or think, “What new perspective does this give me about X topic?” Look for links across industries. What truths in the financial industry apply to engineering? What principles in human relations apply to technology? What was true in the 18th century that’s still true today?
2. Consider questions rather than answers. As you think about a new audience, rather than start with what information you have to give them, begin by considering what questions they’d ask you if your presentation were an interview. How are their interests related to your topic? What’s a “day in the life of” for them? What’s their biggest challenge? Why should they care about what you have to say? How does what you have to say solve a problem for them? Knowing their questions leads you to the pile of information you now need to shape, put in perspective, and interpret for your own ultimate purpose in the presentation.
3. Simmer well in your subconscious. Years ago, Chiffon Margarine produced a popular TV commercial with the line: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” My sentiments exactly. Although I’m not a neuroscientist, I do know you can’t rush the brain’s inner working at the subconscious level. Once you provide the input about your audience, their interests, their everyday tasks or problems to solve, your subconscious mind will go to work looking for answers among all the data you’ve stored from your diet of other resources to combine with your own expertise.
Given enough time for all this information to “simmer” together, usable ideas will pop to your conscious mind. But clearly, the success of this third step depends on the first two: fresh inputs and time. It’s much like making a baby. The process takes about nine months, give or take a few weeks.
As a result of this three-prong preparation process, “all of a sudden” you’ll become conscious of a core message, a suitable structure, and appropriate illustrations. Take the time. You can’t fool Mother Nature.
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