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3 Ways to Prepare a Presentation

Preparing a presentation can at times seem daunting. Probably only second to giving the presentation if you have a public speaking anxiety.

However, it doesn’t have to be. Just like most things in life, the more you create presentations the less intimidating it seems.

Being effective in presentation preparation is like good project management. Three methods I recommend are know your timeline, be aware of the tasks to be done, and take daily steps to reach your deadline without stress and anxiety.

Create A Backwards Timeline

Being aware of the amount of time you have is key to prepare a presentation. I learned the backward timeline strategy (also called reverse planning) as a project manager and it has helped me in countless ways.

The way it works is you write down the end result, in this case giving the presentation. From there you list out everything you need to do in backwards order ending with what you need to do first. the current date.

Once you have that list of action items, start with the date of the presentation and write down the complete by date for each of the tasks on the list. The last date should be when you intend to start preparing, ideally upon completion of the timeline.

This accomplishes several things. First, you have a better idea of exactly what needs to be done and when. Also, if you are deadline driven, this will give you the motivation to start working.

Second, you know where there might be delays or wait times. Especially, if you need to rely on someone else to complete a specific task like getting custom visuals from a designer.

Third, gives you a more visual representation of how much time you have. Fourth, you are less likely to forget an important step of the planning process.

Creating the timeline should be simple. Use either paper and pen (legal pad or calendar) or go digital with a word processor or spreadsheet. It can also be done using planning software. What is important is to get the timeline done and not get sidetracked by bells and whistles. That is a reason to procrastinate.

Once your list is created, you now have specific tasks and actions you need to do for any given day. If one element takes longer than planned, you won’t get completely thrown off track. With your list in hand, it is easier to make adjustments. It reduces stress and anxiety to boot.

Do Task Stacking

Utilizing one’s time well is extremely important to create a presentation. I’ve found that stacking tasks is good way to not get side-tracked and stick to the timeline. Positively Virtual defines task stacking as doing other less cognitively focused tasks during a down period.

When preparing a presentation, there could be several blocks of time where you need to wait for others to do work before you can continue with the next big task. However, ask yourself if there are smaller tasks you can do during that time that aren’t dependent on another person’s work. If you created the backward timeline, this should be easy to do.

For instance, you can always do an initial tech check for a virtual presentation. This can help with determining specifics for the microphone and camera. If you are doing something interactive like a poll or small group discussions, do a dry run with some colleagues or friends.

When there is a wait period, it is quite easy to think ‘Great, I have a break! I can focus on other things and get back to this later.’ However, if there is any type of delay, this can leave you scrambling to get everything done at the last minute.

Work on The Presentation (Almost) Every Single Day

I can’t emphasize enough how important this strategy is. By working on your presentation every single day, you will have the feeling of forward movement and achievement. This strategy really helps if you are prone to anxiety about presenting.

Doing this strategy, of course, is related to the other strategies. If you have a timeline and know when to stack tasks, it is easier to work on preparing your presentation every day.

Granted, some days it won’t be possible. And, of course, don’t work on your days and evenings off!

However, don’t let one busy day turn into three, four, or five days of busy work without working on any part of your presentation.

Also, the work you do every day doesn’t need to be large blocks of time. All it might be is sending a few email messages to verify logistics or for follow-up questions.

Conclusion

Presentation preparation is necessary and when done effectively can elevate your speech. This process shouldn’t feel daunting or be overwhelming.

Utilizing good organizational methods are key. I recommend knowing your timeline, keeping a list of tasks, and working each day on your presentation.

Any steps you can take to reduce the stress and anxiety of preparing for a presentation is a good thing. It means on the day you give the presentation you can focus on giving a great speech and feel that terrible feeling you are completely unprepared.

In the Comments below, share with the community what you do to prepare for a presentation.

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About the author 

Jennifer

Jennifer has 15+ years of public speaking experience - ranging from groups of 5 to 5000. She draws from her experience as an instructor, academic, and librarian to help others with their presentation skills. When not presenting she loves creating and designing online courses, video, images, slide decks, handouts, conference posters, and infographics.

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