Jul 11, 2013

3 Reasons why you must practice your presentation early on

Presentation wisdom suggests the following process for making any presentation. Plan your content -> Make your slides -> Practice your delivery with the set of slides. This model, which is recommended by so many experts, is wrong.

Practice is required at the last, once your slides are fully ready. But practice is also required in the middle. As soon your first basic set of slides is ready, you need to practice.

Stand up and present the slides the way you will do to the audience. Don't worry about the finishing touches. Your slides are average looking and your tables needs to be touched up. That perfect picture is still eluding you. All this decoration is for later stages. Just stand up and talk as if this is the real thing.

Practice at this early stage has 3 benefits:

1. It helps you get the flow of slides right.
2. It helps you eliminate redundant slides. It helps you edit your presentation.
3. It gives you new answers and ideas (which you had missed out during the initial planning stage).

Last week I gave an important presentation to an audience of 100. After I made my initial slides I started presenting (rehearsing in my hotel room). I stood up, took my wireless presenter and started talking.

I figured out that my flow of slides was not right at few places. When I was talking, I got a flow which was much more logical and the slides did not fit in. Hence I made changes to my slides. Move them forward and back to fit the new narrative (storyline).

I also realised that a few slides could be removed as they were not so important. Removing slides is great because it cuts down the duration of the presentation. The shorter the better.

I practised 3-4 times and during these multiple rounds I came up with some new arguments and points which my initial set of slides had lacked. The practice helped me come up with better content.

For your next presentation, plan out your content. Make a quick first draft of the slides. Practice your presentation 3 times. You can always add better images later. Make tables look better later. First practice, so that you can freeze on your content and the flow of your slides.