In so much of business and organizational life in general you can go back and polish, edit, or re-write the work you do. With public speaking or making a presentation you are generally in the “hot seat” without the ability to go back and “fix” your work. This is why preparation in advance is so critical in this instance.
It is worth thinking about presentations you have attended, rather than the ones you have given, and imagining yourself back in the audience for a talk that “just didn’t work” for some reason. Why was this? As we know, all too often, the list of presentation problems can be many. For example, perhaps the speaker was excessively nervous and it showed. Or, the problem may have been clarity, or structure, or the speaker “talked down” to the audience. It may even have been that the speaker missed his or her mark in some way and gave a presentation that was uninteresting or irrelevant to his or her audience.
Whatever, the specific reasons for a failed speaking event, one thing we can say for sure is that all presentations are improved by planning and preparation and especially on what is going to be said to the intended audience. In order to make more of a positive impact on an audience the presentation diagram shown here may therefore help considerably in any speaker’s preparation efforts. The 6 steps shown, starting at the top right and moving around the outside of the rectangle clockwise are Prescribe, Prepare, Preview, Practice, Present and Perform. Each of these steps is a discrete stage to dwell upon ideally sequential order. However, each step will need different amounts of time and one or two of these will be worth revisiting for more or less attention as an individual presenter gives a new talk and wants to improve another facet in a future talk.
In the centre of the diagram is a simple structure that can be used for preparing any future presentation which an individual may give. It suggests that a presenter can reduce every talk into a simple 12 slide format (even if it will eventually be either shorter or longer than this) in the four broad sections of Opening, Middle 1, Middle 2 and Close. The form provides space for some bullet notes and to record what sort of image or visual aid may help the audience to better appreciate what you are saying. Don’t forget a well-chosen image is often worth 1,000 words.