Before your presentation – the road towards it

Never make the mistake to think that your presentation starts the moment you open your mouth. It starts way, waaaaay earlier. Assuming you have your materials prepared, these are the phases I consider to be important to prepare for as well:

Pack your stuff

This is the topic of a blog topic of its own. What do you need for your presentation? Laptop? Connectors? Paper? Presenter? Specific clothes? Boarding pass? What you need differs from person to person, and from assignment to assignment. Tip: make yourself a list of default articles to pack. Go through your list every time you pack. This is a time where you often have too much on your mind, so you’re going to need the support.

Include checks in your list: do my batteries still work, does my clicker work with the software I just updated?

Prepare your trip

Make sure you know your itinerary, whether you just need to walk across the street or need to take a flight. Write it down.

I simply put this information in my agenda. The address of the venue (and of the hotel if need be), how to get there, which room I’m in, who I need to ask for. And most importantly: the phone number of my last minute contact person, in case anything goes wrong.

Enter the building

Before I get in I usually check who I need to ask for, who I will speak and who else is important. People. Names. If you have a better memory than I have you might not need this step, but I find it important to remember the people I’m there for.

Then when I meet them the first thing I want to do is setup, but the first thing I have to do is connect. Do some smalltalk, find out if anything changed, or how they planned to prepare. Get a feeling for the organization and the context you’re going to be speaking in.

Technical setup

The reason why I always try to be an hour or more early is this phase. Connecting my laptop through some cable to some projector. Getting the sound to work. Checking the lights. On lucky days I’m ready within 2 minutes, on bad days this may take an hour. Even with a professional crew. It’s just mind boggling how many things can go wrong. And everytime, it is something new.

One last thing…. or two actually

There are two important things to do before you get on stage. The first is a warming up. Have you ever seen a top sporter starting their race without a proper warming up? You just can’t perform at your peak if you don’t warm up your muscles and your voice.

But the other thing might be even more important: talk with your audience in advance. Have a chat with a few people to find out what they know, what they expect, what they need. You might need to change your talk to fit their needs better.

On stage!

Your stage time starts the moment the audience knows you’re the speaker. Which is usually before you get up when you’re called to the stage. Be aware of the fact that people can be watching you. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. You make that impression before your presentation starts, before you even get on stage. Or if they haven’t seen you up to that point, when you walk on stage.

Not when you open your mouth.



picture: Jose Antonio Alba


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