In Part I of this post, I talked about some of the practical issues to be aware of when preparing a presentation. In Part II, I offered some ideas on structure, theme, connection, and research. Part III covered building and rehearsing your talk. So now what? Final preparations!
Being prepared lowers your stress level and centers your mind; so I recommend..
The night before: Save your talk to your computer/laptop in Keynote. Save it also as a PDF. It’s not a bad idea to save it in Powerpoint as well. Grab all three of those files and copy them to a thumb drive (along with any custom fonts you may have used in your presentation). Load up your bag with your laptop and thumb drive (don’t forget your laptop’s power supply). Put fresh batteries in your wireless presenter and place it, along with a spare battery, in your bag. It’s also a great idea to carry adapters to VGA and DVI (the most common input for projectors) as well as a 1/8″ stereo audio cable. Finally, make sure you bring a stack of business cards.
Check to make sure you have your client’s name and number in your phone, print directions to the venue (or better yet, program it into an app like Waze) and gather all your gear in one place.
Think about your wardrobe. Dressy? Casual? Consider the client, the attendees, and the venue and choose accordingly. Pay attention to the details as you select what you’ll be wearing, along with all the accessories. Now get some sleep!
The next day, leave plenty of time for traffic. Use the time in your car to review your talk, mentally; listen to music, or take the opportunity to just be silent. When you arrive at the venue, meet up with your contact and go through the technical details.
Lecterns: Many people use a lectern as a crutch; something to lean on or hide behind. The more your audience sees of you, the more they will trust you. If at all possible, don’t use a lectern. If you’re participating in a panel discussion, use directors chairs instead of sitting behind a table (obviously, this needs to be requested in advance) as a table acts as barrier between you and your audience.
Microphones: You may have a choice between a lapel mic or a wireless handheld mic. A handheld gives you something to occupy your hands, but a mic in one hand and a wireless presenter in the other can get clunky. A lapel mic leaves your hands free to gesture. This comes down to whatever you’re most comfortable using. Get wired up and talk for a bit while the audio tech sets a level. Remember that from this point on, you are wearing a microphone that is ON; even if it’s not being fed to the speakers. Be careful about what you say.
Laptop/Keynote: Once your laptop is connected (or your Keynote is loaded onto the venue’s computer), grab your wireless presenter and click through the slides. If you have audio or video built into the Keynote, make sure it works and is at a good level.
If you’re using your own laptop, turn your screensaver off, and exit your email & messaging apps. The last thing you need during your talk is for it to be interrupted by the sound of an email or text arriving.
Just before your talk: Prepare your body by stretching a little, prepare your mouth with a few vocal exercises, use the restroom, and grab a bottle of water to drink during your presentation. Turn off your phone before going onstage (unless you’re using it as your wireless presenter, then silence all apps).
Hit the stage: Once you’re on stage, all of this preparation and rehearsal should pay off in a polished performance. Pace yourself, pay attention to the audience’s responses, and R E L A X.
After the talk: Gather your stuff and thank your host and any of the folks who assisted in making your talk successful. You did it!