Preparing for a presentation

If you need to prepare a presentation for work or perhaps for an interview this guide will help you produce an effective, impactful result and delivers your message and keeps your audience engaged:

Stick to the briefIf you’ve been given a brief, read the brief carefully and ensure you answer the question and stick to any timings.  Keep the brief to hand as you write your presentation and check you are still on-track.

Know your audience – Before writing your presentation, consider your panel members: 

  • What are their job responsibilities, priorities, professional backgrounds and interests? You can find out a lot through online research on sites such as LinkedIn.
  • Think about your presentation from their individual perspective and consider what aspects of the topic will most interest them.

Have a clear message – Work out what you want to say in two or three sentences, before elaborating your ideas. In order to make an impact you need to have clear recommendations, backed up by convincing arguments.

Structure your presentation – Make sure the structure of your presentation is clear, logical and easy to follow. You need:

  • A short introduction explaining what the presentation is about and what you are going to cover.
  • Clear sections or themes within the presentation (there might be one slide per theme), ensuring your argument has a logical structure
  • A summary of your arguments
  • A clear conclusion with specific recommendations, identifying the resources required to deliver them.

Consider the visual impact – It is better to keep your presentation succinct and allow the audience to ask follow-up questions at the end rather than rushing through a mound of information. 

  • Keep slides visually clear and not text heavy.
  • Use bullet points or headings when appropriate – we advise no more than 4-6 bullet points per slide
  • Use colours / themes that are ‘on brand’.
  • Use images sparingly – and only if appropriate

Remember, you don’t have to put all your points onto your slides – it is fine to put some top-line points on a slide but then elaborate on them verbally. If your presentation requires more detail, this can be given as a supporting hard copy handout.

Manage your time – It is important that your presentation lasts the amount of time you have been given. Once your presentation is complete, practice it in front of someone else who can comment on your delivery and content. When you practice aim to finish 30 seconds before the allocated time limit.

Do your research – Make sure you have researched the presentation topic thoroughly.  If it’s for an interview, find out how the company have handled this issue in the past. Research what their competitors are doing in this field and have some relevant facts and figures to illustrate key trends at your fingertips – this can enhance your credibility and show impressive levels of preparation.

Predict follow up questions –  Go through your presentation and work out what questions the panel might ask, especially given their job roles and personal perspectives.  Try to plan answers ready for these questions.  Typical follow up questions might include:

  • Why are you recommending x option and not y?
  • What resources would be required to implement this?
  • How would you go about getting sign-off to your recommendations with key stakeholders?
  • What are the risks of this plan of action and how would you minimise them?
  • How do your recommendations fit with the institution’s wider activities and strategies?

Take back upAlways make sure you have a Plan B if the technology is not working or a vital piece of equipment is not available.

  • If you are delivering a PowerPoint presentation, email it to yourself as well as taking it on a stick just in case.
  • It can also be helpful to print off some hard copies in case there are problems with the projector.

Build RapportThe more familiar you are with your material and the more thorough your research, the more confident you will feel. 

  • Maintain strong eye contact; avoid looking at the screen or reading notes.  
  • Use keywords on a card as prompts rather than memorising sentences as a ‘speech’ as this will appear more natural.
  • Remember to smile and to pause at key points.
  • Address panel members by name when answering their questions. 
  • Remember to take your time and enjoy it! It’s not often you get to be the centre of attention and are able to put your views directly to senior members of staff.

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