What does "being prepared" actually mean?

So you’ve read through your presentation a few times....heck, you might have even memorized it! Which means you're prepared for your upcoming presentation right?

*sigh* if only it were that easy...

Being prepared goes well beyond flipping through your presentation a few days in advance. It involves preparing for every aspect of the experience (including for the things that can and will go wrong).

Here are 5 easy steps you can take to make sure you're better prepared for your next presentation. 

1.  Get to know the room where you’ll be presenting 

Does your presentation require a projector? A screen? A mic? If you need anything beyond what’s in your head, it’s always (always) a good idea to double-check that the room you’re booked in has what you need to shine.

Bonus points: If you’re able to, visit the room prior to your presentation date to get a feel for the layout and to confirm you actually know where it’s located!

2. Know your content cold (aka. don’t rely on PowerPoint) 

Tech issues… happens to the best of us. Usually on the exact day the IT person is away on vacation. If the projector isn't working, now what?

Luckily, you came prepared because you either (1) didn’t need your PowerPoint to deliver your presentation in the first place or (2) you printed out hard-copy versions so everyone can follow along. Phewf! 

Moral of the story: never rely on the tech to work right and know your content cold.

3. Time yourself

10 minutes sounds like an eternity, but when you're nervous and have a tendency to ramble...that time can go by in a flash.

Spending too much time on certain sections of your presentation will put you at risk of being prematurely cut-off (so everyone can go to lunch!) or be seen as disorganized and unprepared. 

No one likes it when a speaker runs over, so avoid this habit by making sure you time yourself giving the presentation while speaking at a normal pace. Running over? Ruthlessly cut any information that doesn’t reinforce your main point. 

4. Know who's going to be in the room 

It goes without saying that knowing your audience is one of the most critical aspects of delivering a strong presentation.

But knowing ahead of time if key decision-makers/influencers (e.g. the CEO, a big client, media outlets) will be in the audience will give you the opportunity to tailor your presentation to ensure your main message resonates with them.   

Get into the habit of asking the meeting/event organizer for a list of attendees well in advance of your presentation date.

5. Have a plan for when things go wrong 

Well prepared presenters go beyond having their message well-crafted and ready to deliver. They also have a plan for when things go wrong. 

Sudden noises, tech failures (*ughh*), shortened speaking time, a program change, a dropped call, a fire drill (!)...can and will happen to you at some point in your professional career.

We therefore strongly encourage you to have an action plan for when you find yourself in one of these unfortunate situations. 

Projector not working? Have a hard-copy. Shortened speaking time? Have a shorter deck. Fire drill? Offer to finish in the parking lot. 

You'll come across as confident, collected and credible....also known as having strong executive presence.

...but the single biggest thing you can do to prepare? Practice, practice, practice.

Building confidence takes time, so practicing your public speaking skills on a regular basis is the single biggest thing you can do to prepare for any speaking scenario.