There is no substitution for preparation when it comes to giving presentations that show you mean business. As an international, you may have been surprised by this emphasis on presentations your American colleagues so strongly endorse. We have found that this emphasis varies TREMENDOUSLY from culture to culture, leaning much stricter on the American side. Time to buckle your seatbelts!
Preparation is king- Please do not try to avoid this. You need to know your material flawlessly–by preparing for it. There is no room for sub-par in American business presentations, especially in a competitive, aggressive economy. Even the insanely great Steve Jobs prepares thoroughly for every keynote and public presentation—we told you about his presentation secrets a few posts back.
We’ve identified three main reasons why preparation is king: lack of preparation shows lack of knowledge, which in turn shows lack of competence, and this can damage your credibility; your audience will not feel respected by ill preparation; and, you might never get a second chance.
Going back to our previous post, we asked you to think about the amount of time you generally spend preparing for presentations. We gave you the following choices:
- The 5 minutes in the elevator on the way to the meeting.
- One hour before in my hotel room.
- Over the weekend, for a few hours here and there.
- A week ahead, with intermittent practice.
If you picked A and B, you’re like most people. B we can work with, and C and D, you’ve clearly got this piece figured out. But let’s talk through a game plan for the slackers, the time constrained, and for those of you who were frankly surprised by this cross cultural shift in thinking.
While there are no shortcuts per se to preparation, thankfully these approaches are more effective and less time consuming than rote memorization.
1. Start with the end result of your presentation-Yes, we said “end” first. Knowing this and internalizing it during your minimal preparation period will keep you focused on the contributing factors to the end goal.
2. Keep the contributing factors to three- If you don’t have three, or have more than three, STILL STICK TO THREE. Human memory cannot take more than this.
3. Write an outline- visual aids facilitate memorization. Even if you really are prepping for this in the hotel room one hour before the presentation, use the back of a napkin or the small notebook provided on the bed table. Seeing the outline will help you grab hold of it mentally.
4. Verbally practice (out loud) the beginning and end- You want to start strong, so people will like you and warm up to you at first. You want to end strong, since these words are the last portion people will remember; it’s also where the call to action lives.
5. Keep it simple- Do not go beyond more than you are asked. Be practical with the time you do have. The above steps can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less.
We know you want to be successful—it’s why you’re reading this blog, and why you’ve gotten this far in the post. If you cannot commit to the minimal steps above, you might end up like this guy…
We hope you don’t.
Until the next post…