By Maria Copeland
We have all sat through them—long, drawn out presentations. Your eyelids get heavier and heavier and coffee is the only thing to keep you awake. You promise yourself you will never be that boring, but to deliver an unforgettable and interesting presentation you have to have a plan.
Determining the Why
When preparing for a presentation the first thing on your mind should be “Why am I presenting to this group?” Evaluate the purpose. Is it to educate, inspire, inform, persuade or entertain? What do you want your audience to get out of the presentation? How do you want them to feel? What is your main objective? How will you know if you succeeded? Once you’ve answered those questions, you can begin researching the topic. Once you have a clear purpose and direction you can begin working on the content.
Developing the What
Make sure your presentation comes full circle. Tell your audience what you are going to share with them and do just that. At the end, summarize your key messages. Remember to use terminology they can relate to and keep acronyms to a minimum. Avoid including a lot of dates and number sequences, especially if you do not have a visual reference. Try to engage the audience rather than lecturing them. Include humor (if appropriate), graphics, testimonials, a movie or audio clips to keep their attention.
If you do incorporate audio or visual components make sure they work. Too often something goes wrong technically and the speaker is left to apologize or be delayed. Practicing at the location in advance with the same technology you will be using in the presentation can help minimize this risk. Even if something goes wrong, be prepared for how you will move on and keep the audience focused on the message.
Mastering the Delivery
First impressions do matter, but that doesn’t mean you have to get dressed up in your Sunday best. Some of the best presentations I have seen were given by unassuming, casual speakers. Of course the venue, event type and audience should all play into your wardrobe decision. You want to be seen as a valid speaker and you want your message to be taken seriously. Make sure you practice delivering your information and that you are speaking clearly and loud enough for all to hear. There is nothing worse than watching a presentation with no audio.
Movement is also key to a successful presentation. Make eye contact with the audience, but try not to lock into one person. Ask questions and incorporate the audience into the presentation. And at the end, be sure to thank them for their attention.
Maria Copeland is a public education coordinator at LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services at UF Health. She has presented on the topic of saving lives through organ donation to more than 20,000 students. She is a former junior and high school teacher and is a board member for the Gainesville chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA).