7.7: The importance of preparation and how to do it right

< Back to 7.6
Give a bad presentation
        Next to 7.8 >
The Seven Steps of a Presentation


Aim: To illustrate the key factors in preparing for a presentation. Why prepare?


Glossophobia or fear of speaking in public is very widespread. It has been estimated that 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety/ nervousness when speaking in public. Why are we afraid of giving presentations? Refer to the list of feelings about giving your first presentation.

One way to combat or lessen our fear is by preparing as much as we can. There are five questions we should ask ourselves as we prepare:

Why am I giving the presentation? What is the purpose? What message do I want to get across? What result do I want to achieve? What point of view do I want to convey? It is usually some form of persuasion – write the objective down in one short sentence and use it as a reference point throughout your preparation.

What am I going to present? Research and gather the facts, figures, statistics, illustrations, handouts, the key arguments, etc.

Where am I going to give the presentation? What is the shape of the room and the seating plan? Will I need any equipment. Will it be there or will I have to bring it? Where are the power sources? Do I need extension leads? What is the lighting like? Will my transparencies be visible at the back of the room. How can I darken the room if necessary? Will I need a sound system or a microphone? etc.

How should I present? What style should I use? Friendly? Authoritative? Inquisitive? General? Detailed? Highly structured? Spontaneous?

Who will be the audience? Many of the answers to the previous questions will be determined by the answer to this one.


You can use this simple formula to prepare your presentations:

M. E. E. T. S.

M – Motivation
The three starting points are: the audience, the audience, the audience. You may love or hate presenting, just never lose sight of your customers. That means being very clear about how you are talking to and why they are listening to you. The whole point of presenting is to communicate, so see it from their point of view. Put yourself in their shoes. Why are they there listening to you? Do they really want to be there, or have they been told to attend by a superior? It’s fine having lots of ideas which you want to convey, but are they relevant? Is your audience going to understand you? Do they even want to? How much do you know about them? How many of them are there? Are they fresh or already suffering from conference fatigue? You can probably think more questions.

E – expectations
All audiences come to a presentation with certain expectations. Even when you know your audience personally, it pays to review what they are expecting. For instance, are they wanting to be persuaded, amused, informed, challenged to make a decision, etc.? What’s in it for them? Somewhere along the way the audience must get something they want to need.

To make an impact you may deliberately choose to upset their expectations. It may even be useful to ask yourself: ”How could I deliberately upset their expectations?” But be sure to do it intentionally and not by mistake through ignorance, lack of preparation or cultural insensitivity. Be careful not to upset cultural taboos. Get advice from your cultural interpreter.

E – experience
Check the level and background of the audience. What do they already know about the subject? Do they come already interested or must you generate the interest? Have they had any previous experience with your company or products before? If so, were they positive or negative experiences. What do they know about your competitors? Finally, most people have a set of personal values, prejudices or beliefs which influence how they receive communication. What are your audience’s?

T – time
Always have a clear sense of how much time you have for your presentation. Different presentations have different ground rules. For example, if you are invited to give an after dinner speech the time may be more flexible than for a presentation to a board of directors. Sometimes you can ask a small audience: ”How much time do I have?” But mostly you need to know in advance how much time you have so that you can plan your material to fit. The worst thing you can do is tell the audience you will speak for 20 minutes and then go over time to 30 or 40 minutes. Soon after 20 minutes have passed people will start to look at their watches and their focus of attention will wander.

S – size
How many people will you be talking to? It’s scary having prepared for a dozen people to find yourself facing a hundred.

An audience of 1 – 5 people is a small group. You must establish relationships rapidly and try to engage each person, rather than just the group as a whole. If culturally appropriate you can sit, or perch on the edge of a desk if you prefer.

An audience of 5 – 10 requires a more formal approach, though you will be concerned with individuals. Visual aids need to be large and how you handle questions should be carefully considered. It’s better to stand up.

From 30 – 100 the audience appears a mass of people, more anonymous and less easy to approach. It’s harder to establish relationships with individuals and presentation aids need to be faultless. Consider using a microphone.

Over 100 people and you are moving into a theatrical situation. Issues such as stage door entrance, lighting, and presentation aids require considerable care and attention; question and answer can fail unless formalized and moderated.

Special factors

There may be special factors about your particular presentation to review, such as:

  • Who presents before me?
  • What are they likely to say?
  • How will they leave the audience for my follow-on?
  • How can I tailor my presentation to build on or anticipate their expected impact?

Pie chart

Watch out for situations where your audience have been affected by some special situation. For example, you not get their full attention because yours is the last presentation after a long stretch of presentations before lunch…

< Back to 7.6
Give a bad presentation
        Next to 7.8 >
The Seven Steps of a Presentation