A Presenting Primer for Non-Presenters

This longer primer on presenting assumes that you have already read the “Short Presenting Primer for Non-Presenters”. It will help you prepare for your presentation. It will show you how to develop your scope and sequence, overview, delivery style, and summary. Following these steps will insure a successful talk.

The Preparation:
The most important part of a presentation is the preparation! It is also the part that is most often shorted. We think that we know what we are going to say and do. And, generally, we do. However, specifically, we almost never know everything. If you have prepared in advance, you often find you have too much or too little or that there is more you need to learn about the subject! Recall the old saying about the best way to learn something is to teach it. If you have never tried to teach your topic before, you are going to run into things that will need further study.

3 Things:
Your preparation should include 3 things. First, an outline for yourself. Use whatever format works for you; cards, a formal outline, lists etc. The outline should be easy to follow. Use a large type. You will be interrupted by questions and you will have to find your place in it. Second, the materials for the presentation. The actual software or hardware, screen or overhead displays, and examples, etc. Plan to arrive early so everything will be set up well in advance. Third, materials for your audience. Even if it is just your email address, people like to take something with them. It also provides a good place for them to take notes. With these things in hand, you will be ready.

3 Activities:
Your preparation should also include 3 activities. First, a real time run through. You might be surprised how fast the time goes! If you don’t have time to run through the entire presentation, time a section and extrapolate. Second, a technology check. What machines are you going to depend on? Is the monitor smaller than the one you normally use? Is your software compatible? Would it be better to bring everything you will use or rely on what’s there? Consider what you will do if nothing works. Third, a revision. If you have done the other 5 parts, there will be something (if not a lot of things) you need to adjust.

The Scope and Sequence:

“Scope and sequence” is a term from educational curriculum development. It means to know how much you are going to cover and in what order. When you prepare your outline and do a run through, you are designing your scope and sequence.

The sequence is usually the easy part. If you know your subject it will fall into place as you start putting your outline down on paper. You will probably swap parts around a few times until it “looks” right. Scope on the other hand is more difficult. You have to determine where to start and where to end. You should consider the time available, the audience, and your goals for the presentation. Unless you are teaching an in-depth class, it is generally better to give a really good, but superficial, overview than to run out of time detailing every little interesting feature of your topic. Hit the important points well and your audience will be happy and informed. Or, realize that some topics may need to be broken up into several presentations.

The Overview:

The overview (Tell them what you are going to tell them.) is the good way to start a presentation of any kind. The only exception would be some kind of “Oh Wow!” event used to get attention and spark interest. But the overview would come immediately after that.

You may want to write the overview out completely and memorize it. A good overview gives your audience a map of the world you age going to explain. One good way to assemble one is to phrase it around what your audience will know or be able to do after the presentation. If you skip it, your audience starts out lost and may stay that way.

The Delivery:

The actual delivery of the information can take many forms. Do it in whatever way feels right for you and it will work. Until you have more experience, trying to do it in someone else’s style might be a disaster.

You might do an actual demonstration or a formal presentation with something like PowerPoint, a question and answer dialog works well if you can enlist a helper. A simple explanation might be enough. Consider showing simple screen shots or overheads rather than doing an actual demonstration. It can be faster and you don’t have to worry about it “working right.”

Try to keep it light and fun and moving along. Remember that teacher that always made your eyeballs roll back into your head? Remember the one that always made you sit on the edge of your seat? Which one clipped along with a sense of humor?

The Summary:

Only the overview is more important during the actual presentation delivery! Tell the main points again. Fill in the blanks. Explain where more information is available. Solicit questions.

The summary will help the audience remember questions they had during the presentation but forgot to ask. The questions and answers should help round out the explanation. Listen carefully to the questions, they may have noticed something you haven’t. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know but I will find out for you.” No one will expect you to know every detail.

Finally, thank the audience for their attention.


Other Stuff:

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