Preparing for a presentation or speech – part 1

child reading

child reading

This series of articles aims to be a quick guide to how best to prepare for an important speech or presentation.

Key steps are outlined that you should stick to in your preparation and at each stage I’ll offer a top tip to help you get the most from your speaking.

The first part of this series focuses on the weeks leading up to your speech or presentation.

6 weeks before:

Plan your presentation; ensure that it includes a clear introduction and conclusion, as well as clear sections or ‘points’. This will help both you and your audience to understand exactly what you are expressing in your presentation.

Top tip: Begin and end each section with a clear and memorable line. This will help you to memorise your presentation script and give you a point to return to should you lose your way when presenting.

4 weeks before:

Type out a full script, word for word of what you plan to say in your presentation. Rehearse this script each evening for a week, paying good attention to your key points and phrases.

Top tip: Rehearse standing up to help you get used to speaking on your feet (quite literally) and being in ‘presenting mode’.

3 weeks before:

Take your script and condense it down in to two or three key sentences for each section of your presentation. Rehearse your presentation aloud each evening for a week using these new, revised notes.

Top tip: Don’t worry if for the first few nights you can’t remember every word you want to say, this is why we practice! By the end of the week you should be able to cover all of your key points and use different, but correct, language each time.

2 weeks before:

Now take your notes and condense them again – this time aim to have just a few words for each section of your presentation. Your new notes should ideally fit onto a side of A5 paper.

Top tip: Your notes don’t always have to be direct words associated to each section of your presentation. Odd or bizarre words that remind you about the content of the section are enough – sometimes quirky works better!

1 week before:

By now you should know your presentation script and key phrases within it inside out. Now is the time to begin practicing how you deliver your speech to make it really engaging for your audience and to show them that you are a confident speaker.

Top tip: Look for parts of your speech that can be boosted by using a change in volume, movement, props or a change in the pace at which you are speaking. Adding in these things where appropriate will help to keep your audience ‘switched-on’ and paying you attention.

Please do come back next week to view the second half of this article which will cover key actions and strategies for the night before and morning of your presentation as well as tips to help you out during your speech.

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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