I gave a presentation on Friday morning. This was a big one. Big company, big titles, big opportunity. The feedback that I got was that I killed it, which thrilled me because a ton of work went into it.
I love doing this type of presentation too. I reflected on the meeting on the flight home. I wanted to share what goes in to a presentation like this.
First, I have an amazing team. Like any large scale presentation, you need to have a great supporting cast. Without their help, this wouldn’t have been such a great presentation. That is piece of advice number one. Get help.
I found out about this presentation 2 weeks prior so here is what went down (assume this starts on day 0 and you present on day 14):
- Day 3 – Meeting overview – this is usually a 60 minute meeting with the team and includes: How much time we have? Who is attending? What do they want to get out of the meeting? What do we want to get out of the meeting? What are the points most important to them? What key events have happend or will happen between now and about 2-weeks after that (to remain relevant)?
- Day 5 – Present the rough outline – If you’re doing slides, these are the titles of each slide. If you’re giving a talk, these are your primary talking points. As a sales guy, I try to avoid slides, but when presenting with a group, especially technical things to technical people, this is tough.
- Day 7 – Dry run – This is a soft run to your team, ad libing each of the main points. The goal of this dry run is to ensure that you’ve got the points in the right order. By this point, you should have a good opening line and a good closing line. What is going to grab their attention and what is going to be the closer to ensure that they remember you?
- Day 8 – Start writing a script – This might be something specifically for me, but I literally write down word for word exactly what I’m going to say. In the case of this past week, it was about 10 slides with a story on each slide. I write it down verbatim, almost like stage directions. I put in pauses, I put in emphasis, I put in notes about what to do with my hands.
- Day 9 – Review with the team – Read this script, with your slides, to your team. Where does it work, where does it miss? Get tons of feedback about what you should say and shouldn’t say and how you should or shouldn’t say it. My fault is that I don’t pause enough. It’s good to hear feedback from my team on where to insert these pauses and for how long. I add them to my script.
- Day 10 & 11 – Keep reviewing – By this point, I’m reading my script 5 or 6 times per day. I generally try to do it a couple of times in the morning and make adjustments then do a couple of times at night before I go to bed and keep making adjustments. Also at this point, I’m starting to find that I wake up in the middle of the night reciting my script and jotting down notes on what changes need to be made.
- Day 12 – Do it without notes – Usually by this point, I’ve got the script pretty well memorized. Now, I want to make sure that I can recite it without having my notes in front of me. This accomplishes two things – 1.) It ensures that I know the stuff and 2.) It gives me a chance to improv so that it doesn’t sound like I’m reading from a script, but actually speaking from the heart.
I’m still doing all of this with my team and making constant adjustments to the presentation based on their feedback. Of course, by this point, the content is pretty well solidified, now it is just a matter of delivery style.
- Day 13 – The day before a presentation, I generally try to present at least half a dozen times. I usually do two dry runs by myself in front of the mirror first thing in the morning (once before coffee, once after) then I try to find a few poor souls that will give me the time to do a dry run for them. Finally, I do a couple of dry runs before I go to bed. I’m making minor tweaks to the style and the way that I deliver each point
- Day 14 – The day of the presentation, depending on what time I’m presenting, I try to give a couple of dry runs in front of the mirror in the morning. I get a good breakfast if I’m presenting in the morning, but I generally skip lunch if I’m presenting after lunch.
In watching the TechCrunch Disrupt presenters last week, I was amazed at how clear it was that many of these CEO’s clearly didn’t practice their presentations or much time in to preparing for them. I wasn’t too impressed by Qwiki as a company, but their presentation killed. If you’ve got to give a presentation on the value of your life, and you’ve got a few weeks to prepare for it, don’t you put a little bit of work in to it?
Allen Iverson talks in the video above about how ‘it’s just practice’. Iverson has no rings.
Put a little bit of effort into your presentation and practice it a little bit and go get your ring.
If you want to learn more about working a room, keeping a topic and generally kicking ass when you’re giving a presentation, check out Scott Berkun‘s book, Confessions of a Public Speaker.