3 Ways to Prep for a Presentation

I gave two presentations for a work conference this weekend. Mostly against my will, though I'll admit there's a part of me that secretly likes to be considered an authority on something (I'm sure this blog, my podcast, and my acceptance of two youth Sunday school class callings are evidence of this.). In this case, I was presenting to people who do more than I do, have been doing it for longer than I have, and whose landscape for work is really quite a bit different than mine, so I was less than thrilled at the idea of BSing my way through them. It was a great opportunity (that's business-speak for challenging) to get my shiz together and make sure that the work I've been doing for the last 5 months is accumulating to something worthwhile. And also, a hard deadline to get my templates and processes in order. It's like college all over again!

To be ready to speak at any opportunity, I recommend you:
  1. Know what you're talking about. Research. Have backup plans. Anticipate questions. Know the answer to those questions. It's a lot of work, especially if you're still on the steep point of a learning curve. But it's worth cramming on stats and concepts, and most especially terminology. Because nothing makes you sound more like an idiot than using wrong jargon.
  2. Remember that what you're saying has value, even if it feels like you're rambling, even if you don't feel qualified, even if participant stares are indiscernible between interest and boredom. You are here as a resource. You can (and should) utilize audience knowledge and incorporated it into the lesson/presentation, but be sure to moderate and anchor the information, otherwise discussion can end up in la la land. And la la land makes you sound like an idiot.
  3. Eat/drink safe. Meaning normal meals (no breakfast burritos from the ferry cafeteria galley [whoops!], no trying out something new, or drinking like a camel [though I highly recommend a Diet Coke to settle the burrito stomach, and provide a healthy energy punch]). Maybe it's just me and my fickle gastrointestinal system, but nerves mess you up enough, so normal can only help. You want to spend your pre- and during presentation time thinking about how smart and well-spoken you are, not how much you need to go #1, or, heaven forbid, even worse, #2.