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How to Prepare a Presentation

How to prepare a presentation

Very few people indeed can stand in front of a group and give a talk which appears to be spontaneous, relevant and informative. In the majority of cases, those who appear not to have to prepare at all are those who have prepared the most, to the point where the preparation becomes invisible. In other words, they have “structured” the presentation information or message so carefully in his or her preparation that it appears almost natural or effortless to the audience.

Structure your message

Structuring your message is important for two reasons. It helps you to clarify the ideas and the format of what you are going to say, and it gives you the confidence of knowing that you really know your material.

Presentation preparation steps

Although there are many ways in which you can prepare your message, there are two key steps that must be covered. The first of these (however short or simple the message) is to focus upon your specific objectives for the presentation.

Step 1: Focus on your specific presentation objectives

This means assessing:

  • Why are you doing the presentation at all?
  • What you are trying to achieve?
  • What changes (in people thinking or in action terms) would you like your presentation to create?

To try to answer the above questions, it is well worth documenting the specific outcomes that you want to achieve. Of course, this will heavily depend on individual circumstances (and most crucially the needs of your audience). There is a huge difference between selling an idea or a concept, getting people to understand a topic, or for that matter, suggesting a difficult decision that you would like to see supported. Hence, specific outcomes must be explicit in their written form and realistic when it comes to the audience that you will be addressing.

Step 2: Be prepared by knowing and understanding your presentation material

The second key preparation step is always to know your presentation inside and out, and to understand it from all angles. In practical terms, this means that a presenter should always know his or her material to the point that he or she can give it by merely glancing at the slides as a simple prompt about what to talk about or cover. This does not usually mean memorizing the whole message (which will make it sound stilted) but merely to suggest that a quick glance at the screen or your notes will tell you where in the presentation you are and where to go next.

Practice and prepare for the unexpected

Of course, it is important to remember that practice is a key part of any preparation effort and it will help you to be ready for the unexpected. It is always inevitable that your real or “live” presentation will go a little differently than the way you rehearsed it. You therefore need to be able to adjust your presentation for all sorts of reasons, including audience attention, time, technical problems, questions and many other possible factors. Only familiarity with your material will save you from the multitude of things that may go wrong and make sure that you stay on track.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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