“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Preparation is the key to power. One thing you will find when you talk to powerful people is that they are always prepared. They don’t go into conversations blind. They are well versed in current events and know enough about the world to keep a conversation going.
When it comes to business, knowing what you are talking about helps you articulate what you mean and answer questions promptly and appropriately.
Preparation is important in all facets of work. Here are some perfect examples:
- When presenting a new idea, it’s so important that you’re not just throwing a random thought out there because anyone can do that. It’s important your idea is well thought out, articulated well, vetted through the appropriate people, are logical and good for the business, and have substantial legs to stand on/back up the idea. I like to play a little game with myself before I present. I present to myself then I think through all the questions that might come up. How does this impact me? How does this impact the business as a whole? Is it easy to accomplish? What resources are needed? Where did this idea come from? What’s the timeline? NOW… include all those answers in your presentation in a simple and succinct format. If your idea is presented in a way that all questions are answered before they even get asked it showcases that you know what you are talking about, have put a lot of thought against the idea, and are passionate about the idea.
- When giving a presentation it’s important to rehearse ahead of time. Even if it’s alone in your room or to your three your old. Use notecards or cue words to outline what you want to talk about. Time it out. Make sure you are prepared to answer questions. Make sure that your topics line up with your presentation. Not do the same speech without your presentation and only the cards or paper in your hands. You have no idea how many times I have gone to give a presentation and there was a technical issue that made it so that I had to present without my slides. It happens. There will be times when you just must go for it.
- Going into a confrontation. Confrontation might be too harsh but anytime that you need to argue your point and are trying to get something accomplished. It’s crucial to your success that you have proactively thought through all push back and are prepared to defend every point you make.
Practice makes perfect… or it makes you as close to perfect as you can get. Remember that everyone gets nervous before presentations and it’s normal. Here are a few tips to make you a better presenter:
- Start with something captivating. If you have a quote or statistic that will make people think twice about the topic that’s always a good place to start. You need to get their attention in a big way right off the bat.
- Slow down when you talk, take a deep breath, and relax.
- Make eye contact with the audience or if that freaks you out then look directly at the exit sign or the door at the back of the room.
- Pay attention to your hand gestures. If you talk with your hands find something you can hold in your hand (a clicker for the projector, a microphone, a bottle of water of even a pen). You are less likely to flail your hands around if you are holding something.
- Watch how you hold yourself when you get nervous. I realized that when I get nervous, I shift my weight back and forth from foot to foot and I look like I’m dancing so I learned to slowly walk as I talk as it eases my nerves and ensures that the audience doesn’t have to sit through a grueling ballet routine.
- Break up your presentation and give yourself a minute to catch your breath by including the audience. Ask them questions, have them raise their hand if they agree or if you have time to engage with a member of the audience directly. It takes the spotlight off you for just long enough for you to breathe and then comes back strong.
- Finally, when you are presenting please don’t read the words on the slides. Your slides should be key visuals that represent what you are going to say. What you say should not be on your slides. If everything I need to know is on your slides, then I shouldn’t have to sit through your presentation.