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Effective communications: preparing presentations.

[check] This checklist is intended for those who are required to give any form of presentation. It covers all the stages of preparing a talk, from accepting the invitation to checking the venue: the delivery of the presentation is covered in a separate checklist (see Related checklist). Here, the focus is on how to develop an effective style rather than on the preparation of visual aids.


For the purposes of this checklist, a presentation covers any talk to a group, whether formal or informal, from giving a team briefing to delivering a major speech: the same rules and principles apply.

Action checklist

1. Decide whether to accept

Ask yourself whether you are the right person to deliver this presentation. Do you have enough time to prepare? You may need to allow between 30 and 60 minutes for every minute of delivery. Are you excited enough about the topic to be enthusiastic? Do you know enough to answer awkward questions? If not, say no!

2. Clarify the details

Find out how long you will speak for and the exact subject. Will there be questions at the end? If there are other speakers, what will they cover, and howw will you fit in with them?

3. Research your audience

View the audience as customers. Try to gain a notion of their expectations: do they want to be informed, amused or challenged? How many will there be? What is their level and background? Do they have any prior knowledge?

4. Define the purpose

Tailor the presentation to meet the audience needs you identified. Consider whether the aim is to:

* persuade--a sales pitch

* instruct--if you know your topic

* inspire--as part of a change programme

* entertain--if you are naturally funny

5. Assemble your material

Assemble anything relevant to your topic: ideas; articles; quotes; anecdotes; references. Accumulate the material over time but don't attempt to organise it while still collecting it.

6. Organise your material

Review your collection. Group items into themes and topics. Are there metaphors or analogies which keep appearing?

7. Prepare an 'essay plan'

Structure the material into a rough plan. Aim for a beginning, a middle and an end.

8. Write a rough draft

Use the essay plan to sketch a first draft. Write without stopping and don't impose a structure while writing. Aim to outline what you are going to say, say it, and end by summarising what you have said. Try to make only five key points and a maximum of seven.

9. Edit the draft

Sleep on your first draft. Review it the following day. Convert the written word to speech and make the text more concrete, simple and illustrative. Use anecdotes. Shorten all your sentences and eliminate nonessential ideas and words. Cut any jargon or explain any that is unavoidable. Make sure the timing is right--speaking to an audience is slower than talking to a friend.

10. Refine the draft

Run through the draft several times, preferably in front of someone. Seek feedback and criticism on content, style and delivery. Ask your listener not to interrupt but to make notes.

11. Select your prompts

If you want or need to deliver a spontaneous presentation, run through the draft again and begin to highlight prompts--key words and phrases. These will be the basis of your script and perhaps your visual aids. Practise using the prompts alone and learn the thoughts behind the words. When you are confident, transfer the prompts to numbered cards. Continue practising and reducing the number of key words. (Sometimes, you will need to use a full script, for example, if the press are present, or if the occasion is very formal).

12. Select appropriate presentation aids

Presentation aids need to:

* be integrated--flow from your natural style

* move the presentation on--add value to it and summarise what you are saying, thus eliminating the need for a script

* be professional--clear, readable and consistent

* be appropriate in tone--full colour slides may not be right for a small informal group

* be simple to understand--clearly legible from the back of the room

* be graphic where appropriate--you can use symbols, drawings and charts, for example, to reinforce your words.

An increasing range of presentation aids, from flip charts and overhead transparencies to multimedia and computer generated graphics, is available.

13. Rehearse

Practise in your head, in front of a mirror or in front of a partner--he or she will be your sternest critic! Note any mannerisms you need to correct or anything you need constantly to remind yourself of as you talk, such as "Don't put your hands in pockets" or "Smile". Keep these on a cue card when you give the presentation.

14. Check the venue

Well before the start, check that your visuals, especially text, are visible from the back of the room. Sit or stand where you will deliver the presentation and check that the equipment is working and that you can work the equipment. Practice using the microphone, electronic pointer, remote focus and so on.

Dos and don'ts for preparing effective presentations

Do</p> <pre> Practise as much as possible. Seek feedback and be open to criticism. Constantly review the purpose of your presentation against the text: are you meeting the customer's expectations?

Remember that thorough preparation is a key factor in minimising

nerves and ensuring a successful presentation. Put some enthusiasm into your presentation--stimulate the audience. </pre> <p>Don't</p>

<pre> Sit in a room with a blank sheet of paper and try to write: look for external stimuli. Use a visual aid just because it is funny or striking and you can't bear to leave it out. Take anything for granted: the topic; the audience; the extent of their knowledge; the venue; the equipment. </pre> <p>Useful reading

Lend me your ears: all you need to know about making speeches and presentations, Max Atkinson London, Vermilion 2004

Presenting numbers tables and charts, Sally Bigwood and Melissa Spore Oxford, Oxford University Press 2004

The ultimate business presentations book : make a great impression every time Martin Yate and Peter Sander London, Kogan Page, 2003

Speaking on special occasions, Roger Mason London, Teach Yourself Books, 2001

Beyond the podium : delivering training and performance to a digital world Allison Rossett and Kendra Sheldon San Francisco Calif, Jossey Bass Pfeiffer, 2001

Thought starters

* Have you agreed to speak just because you were asked? If so, do you really know and care enough about the topic to excite your audience?

* Are you trying to convey too much information in one presentation? Your audience will only absorb a maximum of seven key points.
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Title Annotation:Checklist 032
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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