Essential to the success of engaging and memorable business presentations is good preparation. The advance planning and production of your material is the only way to exude a sense of readiness and real authority. Every preliminary measure short of delivering your presentation can be classed as preparation.
There are many stages in this process and a lot of people blur the lines between practice and rehearsal. What’s the difference?
Practice is something done prior to delivery that will improve your presentation. Going over your material, familiarising yourself with specific sections and so on. Rehearsal, on the other hand, is the act of delivering a performance as if it were genuine (i.e. from start to finish) but not in front of the intended audience. A rehearsal is a real-time, final stage performance of the material that you have produced.
Here are some useful questions to ask during the preparatory process:
- Do the objectives of this presentation meet the expectations of the audience?
- Are these objectives reflected in the script and supporting graphics?
- Does the script trigger graphics at exactly the right time for maximum audience impact?
- Is the script marked up for points of emphasis, conflict, climax, and resolution?
You should go over the first 200 words of your presentation (approximately) until they are committed to memory. Similarly, you should be reasonably tight with your close, so that upon the words, “…and so in conclusion ladies and gentlemen…” you know precisely how the remaining 30 seconds or so should go.
For your opening and closing segments, make sure that your words are unequivocally linked to your presence on stage – make sure that you know where you're going to stand when you deliver the bookend remarks. If your performance lends yourself to the format, why not deliver the open and close from exactly the same physical position on stage?
The most valuable aspect of effective rehearsal is to run from start to finish, without pause – regardless of how many things go wrong – just keep going, (there’s no audience there so it doesn’t matter). Knowing what worked and what didn’t on a full run through will feed back directly to the practice stage. You’ll know what work is needed and where. Also, rehearsing might give you additional ideas in terms of producing content that lends itself particularly well to the performance.