I was reading a blog post on HBR by Nancy Duarte where she describes "Five Presentation Mistakes Everyone Makes":
1. Failing to engage emotionally
2. Asking too much of your slides
3. Trotting out tired visuals
4. Speaking in jargon
5. Going over your allotted time
I would agree that the five mistakes highlighted can dampen the effectiveness of presentation and I have made each of these mistakes over the years. I do, however, two of the most common mistakes are missing from the list; poor preparation and a lack of confidence. Committing either of these mistakes can often be fatal. Many take for granted their need to prepare, but adequate preparation leads to the confidence required to make an effective presentation.
This led me to think about the type of preparation is needed to make an effective presentation.
1. Test your equipment and have a Plan B should your equipment fail - Whether using one's own equipment or plugging into the clients equipment, one should always ask for enough time to set up. It's is very amateurish to have to plug in cords when your audience is in the room. I prefer a full hour for set-up but always ask for access to the meeting room at least thirty minutes in advance of my presentation. I also always bring extra pens, notebooks, printouts of my slides, bottle water, mints, etc... I would much rather be over prepared than under prepared. This preparation also makes me feel more relaxed prior to the presentation.
2. Know your audience - Knowing your audience is critical to understanding what type of information will be important to the audience. The Director of Finance will have very different topics of interest than the Development Manager. It is important that a presentation bring some level of value to all in attendance.
3. Know the topic / product / service- Only with a thorough knowledge of one's topic, product or service, will one have the confidence to effectively engage an audience. There is nothing worse than to be caught flat footed about one's product or service.
4. Be prepared for the QA - When creating a presentation one should always try and anticipate the questions that might be generated. If one knows what might be asked I can have better prepared answers.
5. Purpose / Next Steps / Action Items - Every presentation should have a purpose. Too often presentations are a total waste for all involved as nobody wants to define a purpose or an outcome. It is critical that the presenter have an objective and then stick to a plan that leads to the desired outcome.
I am sure this is not an exhaustive list, but this level of preparation should help one become a better presenter.