Disturbing nightmares, clammy palms, thumping head and heart: these familiar feelings strike when it’s time to present to the board or a customer. Will the PowerPoint work? Has my computer got enough battery life? Did I prepare the right material? Will I be able to answer all their questions? All these worries go round and round in your mind beforehand – and the last thing you need is distraction from preparing and in a worst-case scenario, distraction whilst delivering your presentation.
There is no magic formula for giving the perfect presentation, but the key to confidence and control is preparation, preparation, preparation. So here are some top tips for the ingredients for the perfect presentation.
Updating the five to one rule
You probably know that for every hour you are presenting, you need to spend five hours preparing, minimum. However, this allocation of time must be for content only. Make sure you are comfortable with the IT equipment that you’ll be using. If you are unsure what the set up is and cannot find out, minimise any potential issues by bringing as much of your own kit as possible.
You need to ensure that your kit helps, not hinders, your presentation. Presenting with a mouse that doesn’t work on the podium, losing power mid-slide and not being able to switch back to the relevant place in your material when asked a question will make you feel very nervous, and can result in you appearing unprofessional. So for the perfect presentation, careful preparation is the key to success.
Having the right kit
Even while you’re preparing, there are ways that technology can help you make the best use of your time and prepare the perfect presentation. For technophobes and the time poor, the Kensington Dual Monitor Adapter helps you to extend your workspace by adding a second screen to your laptop. It’s a plug and play USB device that allows you to connect a second screen. You can also use it to connect to the projector, so that there is no need to fiddle and toggle with function F8 button to kick start it, as the protector will be treated a second screen. It means the audience can see one view while you refer to notes on another.
For a truly professional feel, you need to step away from the PC and communicate directly with your audience, instead of your screen. The audience wants to hear from you, not read your PowerPoint slides. You are there to bring information to life – the slides are your visual aid, not vice-versa.
Think about using a wireless presenter to keep control of your content while focusing on your audience. The Kensington Wireless Presenter, for example, gives users the ability to connect to both Macs and PCs and its smart power function prevents accidental power consumption, helping to safeguard embarrassing battery life issues during presentations. It also enables you to hide a presentation at the touch of a button, to focus an audience on what you are saying or go ‘off plan’ for a moment. Above all, its simple design fits in the hand, providing a channel for nervous energy, rather than wringing your hands or moving around nervously.
For some a laser pointer is a perfect way of highlighting a key point. Others will still need a mouse to control their PowerPoint. Kensington Presenter Mice do both, so that you have the ability to control a cursor and your slides but also the freedom to work the stage, moving away from a podium or desk during their presentation.
Once you have the right device for controlling your presentation, take a moment to think about what’s supporting the computer. Will you have access to power during your presentation? To avoid scrabbling around for plugs or carrying multiple cables and adapters, Kensington has a range of power adapters allowing you to both power and charge your notebook from a traditional wall plug, or in the car or aeroplane.
If you need to connect to the Internet, do you have the right cables or a way to find out if there’s WiFi in the room? If you are leaving your computer for any length of time, will it be secure? The nightmare scenario is someone swiping your laptop moments before the presentation, so do make sure that this risk is reduced by using a laptop lock. [I have included a list below of the helpful tools Kensington provides to help you achieve the perfect presentation.]
‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’
Start well by arriving on time and getting set up quickly and smartly. If you’re not rushed, you will feel calmer and appear more professional. Familiarising yourself with the equipment and having a full run-through a few days before will also help with this.
All the time spent on preparation means that you won’t need to worry about what you are going to say on the day. Instead, you can focus on ensuring that you communicate your message to the audience. ‘Work the room’ by making sure everyone is focused on you and your message, not your slides or kit. The ability to switch to a blank screen, bringing their focus back to you, instead of the slides, can be really useful. It also helps if they are not distracted by your kit, but focused on your words.
As well as arriving on time, it is also important to finish on time. You can spoil all the good work by keeping your audience listening for too long. So don’t waste time at the start of your allotted time setting up!
Five tips for perfect presentations
In summary, my advice comes down to these five points…
1. Remember the 3 Ps…
- Prepare: Research carefully and know what you need to communicate during the presentation
- Practise: Stand up and run through what you are going to say, as this will improve your confidence, help you speak clearly and show you any areas of your ‘script’ that don’t make sense
- Proficiency: remember that you have been invited to present for a reason – you are the expert here, so tell them what you know!
2. Know your IT equipment
There’s nothing worse than failing equipment or freezing PowerPoint slides, so as well as preparing, practising and projecting expertise with your content, apply the same principles to your kit: know what you’re going to use, check it works and rehearse with the same tools you’ll be using on the day. It will improve your confidence and enable you to appear professional.
3. Know yourself
Are you an extrovert who is confident with humour? Then don’t be afraid to make your audience laugh. Would you feel more confident on a conference call than in person? Then don’t try too hard and pretend to be something you’re not – the audience will feel uncomfortable if that’s how you seem. Be yourself and be natural – you’ll connect with your audience much more easily that way.
4. Know your audience
Before you even start, ensure you know your audience and their expectations for the meeting. What do they need to hear? What will help them make a decision? What kind of people are they and what will make them feel comfortable? By aligning your content and presentation style to their expectations, they will be on your side from the start.
5. Know what you want to achieve
It is not just the audience’s expectations you need to meet: what is your objective from the presentation? If you need a response, ask for it. If you need to communicate bad news, don’t shy away from it. If the news is good, do it justice and present it positively, with a smile on your face. All your preparation will be put to waste if you don’t get the results you need, so keep this in mind from the outset.
By reminding yourself of these guidelines before you start, your preparation will be focused and your end result will be professional and successful.