This morning I delivered a three hour, intense presentation to a group of executives. The feedback I got was that it was an excellent session and I am relieved as I put a lot of effort into preparing for it and I never take these things for granted. The question, though, is how much effort should you put into a presentation like this? Well, in my case it was about three days. yes, three days of going back over a subject area I know inside out, of structuring my thoughts, preparing my slides, running through them to see if they hang together and packaging it all up!
Now this was an exceptional case but the reality is that preparation is everything and as a rule of thumb you should be putting at least three times the presentation time in to the preparation time. You should spend three hours in advance on your one hour presentation. And you should practice, practice, practice.
I still shudder when I hear about people who have sweated to prise open the door to an important business prospect and then turn up on the day saying "I haven't really prepared but, ah well, let's wing it." Wing it? Wing it! Are you some sort of bird? The audience know, you know. They are not stupid. You can easily see someone who is busking their way through a presentation and someone who has taken the effort to master their subject and their pitch.
Even the basics get overlooked. Listen people - the rule is 4 minutes per slide. This is not optional. Okay, I'll let you slip in one or two extra slides if I'm in a good mood, but if you are given 20 minutes to present, make sure you can tell your story in FIVE slides. If you can't then get out the way and let someone who can take over. You think its clever to flash through 15 slides in a 20 minute presentation? It's not. It's amateur. Five slides, people, take it or leave it.
And let me tell you straight, even though I have never heard you speak. You talk too fast. SLOW DOWN. At my son's primary school, they had a great way of teaching them to present. When you get to a comma, count to one. When you get to a full stop, count to three. It's amusing to watch the kids say a sentence, pause and silently but obviously say "one, two, three" then start again. But it force you to slow, down and as it becomes natural and your confidence grows it means you present at a measured pace that is right for the audience. Try it. If it seems too slow and unnatural, you have probably got the pace about right.
But if you are one of these fast-talking, gum chewing, all guns blazing guys who wanders along, grins a cheeky grin and says "let's just wing it" just remember what happen to that other over-confident guy who winged it - Icarus.