A client told me about a presentation he gave recently that was terrible. His client had shown up an hour and a half earlier than planned, and he hadn't had time yet to go over the material, a presentation book he uses that had recently been rearranged and redesigned. He felt lost, couldn't follow the layout of the book, and stumbled through the best he could.
I wrote about two presentations I gave in the past two years that I didn't feel were up to my standards. One was a speaking engagement that I probably never should have taken in the first place; the other was an engagement where I was just "off" for some reason that day.
But there is a common theme between all three of the above mentioned presentations: Preparation. Or more correctly, lack of preparation.
Had my client looked over the presentation book when it was produced, instead of his usual plan of looking at it half an hour before the meeting, he would already have been familiar with the new layout.
Had I not tried to include so much new material into a presentation when I didn't have the time to practice it, my presentation last June would have gone much smoother.
Even the one two years ago, where I just felt "off," would have benefited from more practice, especially practicing the new material I had added.
I preach preparation all the time. It's the lack of this one key ingredient that keeps speakers from moving forward successfully. Rushing to put together a presentation days before it's due; creating the presentation in PowerPoint, then using the PowerPoint as your notes because you don't "have time" to practice; or worse, having your boss order you to give a presentation when you haven't even looked at the material... these are all paths to failure. Or if not failure, mediocrity.
And yet, even though preparation is my mantra, there have been times when I wasn't properly prepared, and my workshops suffered.
What's done is done, and we can't go back and repair what went wrong, but we can learn from it.
When you give a presentation that's just so-so (and you know it when it happens!) don't forget to analyze what happened. I don't mean that you should dwell on the mistakes and feel sorry for yourself, although I've done that before.
I mean that you should look at your method of preparation to see where you might improve next time, because I guarantee that your preparation was not thorough enough.
You need to make a change. You need to commit to thorough preparation. You need to give yourself enough time to think it all through, construct it well, practice it completely and really be ready when it's time to present.
If you want to get to the next level and you're always throwing together your presentations at the last minute, forget it. It's not going to happen.