Big breath. You just delivered a big presentation.
Relief washes over you as you gather your things and head back to your office. You replay a few of the minutes over in your mind – analyzing their reactions, wondering if your answer to their curve-ball question sounded competent. You make a few quick mental notes about some changes you need to make.
Then the phone rings.
Your email gets blown up with urgent emails.
Your wife texts that your kid is sick and needs picked up from school.
And the fire alarm goes off – everyone evacuates.
Life gives no pause button.
When we don’t find time to fine tune and improve, average presentations remain average.
Average speakers remain average.
And the world survives another mediocre meeting.
For the sake of audiences everywhere, take a minute (more likely a few) to fine tune your presentation for next time. While I can’t give you more time in the day to do that (wish I could!), I can offer this:
4 things to do after every presentation:
Hopefully some things went well. What were they? Remember when so-and-so validated your point or how you had the data to support your claim when someone asked for it? This is especially important if you’ve had negative experiences in the past. If you remember from science class, your amygdale in your brain holds emotional memories (like that one time you froze in the middle of your presentation in 3rd grade). Rewrite those mental scripts that make you anxious by taking time to celebrate your successes.
2. Jot down the little nuances that made it less smooth.
Clicker batteries die? Throw a few extra in your laptop bag. Should have turned the lights down by the projector screen before you started so your slides were easier to see? Make a note to arrive a few minutes earlier next time to adjust lighting or chairs etc. Minor grammatical error you quickly noticed in one of the slides? CHANGE IT NOW! The combination of these nuances or errors can create the general perception of a weak presenter. And then maybe there were not-so-subtle mistakes. Figure out a strategic way to prepare so next time you can avoid them (like, oh I don’t know, take a presentation skills class or read a few helpful presentation preparation tips).
3. Reflect on the questions you didn’t expect.
Did they reveal a miscommunication? Did they want more information, less information or different information than what you covered? How did you respond to them? Take a few minutes to take inventory of the questions. If they veered off path on a different subject, ask more upfront questions before presenting to really understand what they’re after. Did they continue asking questions about a particular idea? Maybe your thoughts weren’t clear or fluid enough. Did someone seem argumentative? Leave them off the meeting request next time (only kidding – kinda of).
4. Ask for feedback.
Did a colleague observe your presentation and do you trust them to be honest? Feedback is the most effective way to see how you did (unless you videotaped the presentation). Self-perceptions are almost always inaccurate. We think we make good eye contact but our eyes float to the ceiling as we’re grasping for words. We think we’re talking at a comfortable pace but really we’re racing through our content. We think we’re doing good gestures but we’re really wringing our hands. Getting good feedback is an important reality check but it must come from someone you trust to be honest. Send them a quick email asking for feedback. For meaningful feedback, ask them these 3 questions:
- Did I engage with good eye contact with everyone in the room? Or did I read my slides , scan over the group or stare at my shoes instead?
- How was my vocal pace? Was I too quick? Did I have distracting umms, ahhs, or so’s?
- Did my hands get stuck in certain places or exhibit any nervous mannerisms?
(For a list of more questions, check out this handy feedback form!)
These aren’t copywrited. Copy and paste!
I know our plates are full. I’ve seen my clients’ calendars. It’s insane. As teams get more ‘efficient’, as more is expected of us, it’s difficult to commit time to improving one skill set. But let me share a secret with you.
Being a confident speaker is a life skill that does pays off. There’s a return on your investment.
More influence. More credibility. More internal confidence. More traction with your projects and ideas. Don’t cloak your brilliant ideas or important information in a weak or average delivery and expect buy-in, significant influence, or a reputation of credibility.
The next time you leave the conference room, carve out just a few minutes to reflect. At the very least, jot down quick notes and action-items for next time before you get swept away in the next task or meeting.
Spare yourself the the ‘Dang I think I said umm 50 times trying to answer that question’ experience.
Or the ‘shoot I thought I corrected that spelling error’ moment. (Full transparency – in the midst of editing this blog post I found a grammatical error I had been meaning to change in a presentation deck. So there – I’m not perfect either!)
Change starts when you want it to.
(hint: start now!)
Looking for tips how to prepare before a presentation? Take a class! Check out this Portland, OR workshop
consistently rated by attendees as ‘one of the best trainings I’ve ever attended’.