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Those of you who are long-time readers, will be able to recall plenty of posts on the subject of preparation. Those who are newer subscribers will probably already agree that preparation is key to ensuring your presentation is relevant, appropriate, and well received (for some insight, take a look at: finding the purpose of your presentation; building a strong story; and make sure you do these ten things to prepare on the day).
So when I got the chance to sit in on a presentation by someone I used to coach, I was pleasantly surprised. The guy, we’ll call him Josh (and don’t worry, I asked his permission before writing about him) was a nervous wreck when I met him about eighteen months ago. He works in the IT department of a FTSE100 company, and had been asked to speak to a group of board members about some very technical changes he had implemented to their systems.
Josh is the kind of guy who thrives in front of a computer screen, but turns into jelly in front of real human beings – or he was. 18 months on, and Josh is travelling Europe running workshops to help colleagues to learn his new system.
His preparation had it all, but…
There are two vital parts to a great presentation: preparation, and delivery. After our work together, I know Josh could nail the delivery – and he did. But I was pleased to see that he had also improved his preparation, and it shone through: clear story structure, great slide design, and great synergy between text and visuals. There was only one problem.
Josh had clearly designed the presentation on a screen with different resolutions, and on the large plasma (16:9) he was presenting on, his slides (4:3) were stretched and distorted. Josh had forgotten to consider:
Preparation doesn’t just mean ensuring your presentation alone is great – it’s about making sure your delivery will be perfect. And the room, projector, screen and everything to do with the venue counts.
Josh has spent days making sure his PowerPoint is perfect, perfecting his speech, and rehearsing so he knows it off by heart. He probably did that six months ago, before he set off on his tour of Europe, and put no more thought into each individual workshop.
And he’s not alone, I often see presenters who clearly give the same great speech over and over again – it’s perfect and smooth, although often not as relevant as it could be. And we lose something by not making slight adjustments to make our content more relevant – or making sure that all of our hard work is reflected on screen and stage.
So here’s what I told Josh:
- Finding out the dimensions of the screen you’re presenting on should be one of the questions you ask when preparing for a presentation. And having 2 versions of the same presentation is a good idea- one in 4:3 and one in 16:9.
- There will always be technical difficulties, particularly when you least expect them- that’s why I always try to get to know different TVs, projectors and laptops – and arrive early enough to sort them out ahead of time.