Don’t Start at the Very Beginning (and other tips for putting a presentation together)

In our coaching approach, we are really high on practice. My standard instruction is, “You should have your content complete at least a week before you are going to present, so that you don’t have to adjust at the last minute.”

But let’s have some real talk.  It’s rare that we’re working that far ahead. In order to have our talking points solid a week ahead of time, we have to have been working on them for a couple of weeks already. And while there are those unicorns out there who do this, it’s uncommon. And sometimes we’re asked to present with little time to prepare. So what should we focus on when we find ourselves with only a little time?

If you’re going to prepare a presentation less than a week before you have to give it, this is my advice.

  • Ask yourself, “What will make this time well-spent for my audience? What do I want them to walk away feeling?” Be as specific as you can. This is they “why” of this presentation, and everything else comes from there.
  • Figure out the most important aspect of your talk, and start developing that content first. We tend to start at the beginning, but, apologies to Maria von Trapp,  it’s more effective to start with what’s most important.
  • Create your content out loud. You will save yourself a lot of time and effort if you skip the step of writing it all out. As you develop your ideas, say them out loud and then jot them down. When you do this, you’re practicing, hearing how the words sound out loud, and moving yourself much closer to being ready. 

And always, always, come back to intention before you begin speaking. “What impact to I want to have? How do I want this audience to feel?” The combination of a strong intention and a clear focus on the one or two messages of your talk will get you prepared in no time.

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