Preparing the presentation

I’m aware that some, if not most, of readers of this blog are students of Prof. French. No doubt you are, have or will be going through some sort of class on public speaking and presentation preparation. I remember mine quite well as quite possibly one of the most uncomfortable classes I ever took in pursuit of my communications/PR education. The topics were more or less assigned to us and the structure of the presentation was dictated as well. In other words we were told what we would be speaking on (or at least given a narrow range of choices) and what format it would need to be in.

Prepping a presentation outside of that sort of structured environment is quite different, or at least it has been for me. I’ve been given the opportunity to speak on something (blogs, RSS and such) that is a passion of mine and been given the latitude to prepare it as I see fit. Despite the concern I’ve heard recently that presentations need to move beyond PowerPoint at this time there’s no real alternative that’s readily available. So here is how I’ve been working on the presentation I’ll be giving on my upcoming Chris Thilk Flying Blog Presentation Tour.

First – Outlining the general topics I will be discussing. This actually went through several drafts as ideas were dropped in and came out. I had to keep in mind this is supposed to be a 45-60 minute deal so I couldn’t hop down all the bunny-trail tangents I want to.

Second – Brainstorming the bullet points under each topic. I had to keep in mind this is supposed to be a high-level overview and that everyone in the audience may not have the knowledge base I do. There’s a fine line to be drawn when figuring out how much detail to go into. You have to give enough that the topic is understood without going too deep. If you go past that then you get into minutia that is neither all that important to general understanding nor pertinent to how the audience will be looking to utilize the knowledge you give them.

Third – Drafting the presentation. This actually took the most time since putting things in a logical order is difficult. You have to make sure you lay the foundation in slide five for something that will be expounded upon in slide 15. Mix those two up and you have a very disjointed bit of rhetoric.

Fourth – Revisions after soliciting input. I got some great notes from the people I ran this past while working on it. I’m a big believer in group brainstorming as a way to flesh out ideas and this is exactly why. There were points I thought were strong that upon reflection weren’t.

Fifth – Doing a dress rehearsal. I got up in front of a few of the folks here at work and went through the presentation exactly as I would have in front of a live audience. That includes making the opening joke to asking questions, even if you have to imagine the answers. There’s nothing like giving the actual presentation to show you where the weaknesses are, which parts to take more time on and which parts can be sped through. If you’re working on one then get a group of willing friends to sit in a room and be your trial audience.

Sixth – Figuring out the asides. I’m an informal speaker, so only about half my presentation is going to be on the screen. The other half is in my head in the form of anecdotes, experience and other points that don’t fit well in PowerPoint. I printed out the slides I would be using with a field for notes on the side and filled in the extra points I want to make alongside the corresponding slide.

Finally – Prepping audience materials. Whenever I saw a presentation I loved getting a printed copy of the slides and so will be handing those out to attendees, complete with the notes field on the right so they can scrible their own questions/issues. I’m also going to be putting together a sheet of links to various websites where they can do their own research and investigation. Nothing leads to behavioral change like having to do work yourself so urging them to visit these sites and read the information for themselves will likely lead to a better understanding of the subject matter.

I hope this helps. Drop me a comment if you have any questions.

By Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.