I was just given an assignment to present at a community meeting, but I have very little time to prepare. What should I do?
This question was asked by one of my students, and it brings up a communication dilemma – how do you put together a presentation when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare? This task can baffle the best of us. But there’s no need to panic. Here are some suggestions to put together a presentation quickly:
1. Think about your audience. Who are they? How much do they already know about your topic? What more do they want to know? If you address the needs and concerns of the people in your audience, they are more likely to listen to you.
2. Define your objective and the key points quickly. You don’t have time to waste. People often spend too much of what little time they have agonizing over these items. Make a decision and get started. You can now focus on what you want to convey to the audience. (Additional information on structuring your presentation can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)
3. Consider whether you have any stories to support your key points. Stories bring your presentation to life. Keep them succinct and to the point. Your audience will remember the story, and as a result, they’ll also remember the message in your presentation.
4. Practice out loud. Have at least one practice. You want to hear how the presentation sounds.
5. Pay attention to your delivery. You want to appear confident and credible – even if you are uncomfortable. Use good posture, and look at people in the audience. Don’t sway. Avoid nervous fiddling, such as playing with a pen or rubber band. Dress slightly better than your audience, and speak loudly enough to be heard.
6. Don’t discount yourself. Avoid comments that belittle you or your talk. These include such statements as, “I hope I don’t bore you; I didn’t have a lot of time to put this together…” or “I know you didn’t come here just to hear me.”
7. Anticipate the questions. Once the presentation is together, spend just a couple of minutes thinking about the questions that you may be asked. Decide how you will respond to them. If you do, you are less likely to be caught off guard.
There is a lot more you can – and should – do to prepare for a presentation, but these quick tips will help you prepare an effective presentation when time is short.
Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at email@example.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)
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