Presentation Skills – A Handy Checklist to Use For Engagements

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You’ve been asked to speak somewhere. Many speakers spend hours preparing their presentation but don’t give a second thought to what the room set-up might be. This could be a disaster. It’s definitely worth some upfront time to learn about the room and make requests about its set-up so that you’re comfortable in the space. If you feel good about your space, it will enable you to do a much better job. Whatever the audience or occasion, here’s a checklist of things to find out and/or ask for to ensure your speaking gig will go smoothly.

 * Make sure you have a contact.

Use this person’s knowledge of the group, the meeting, the audience, and the facility to help you prepare. It’s helpful to have one point person who can help coordinate all your needs, such audio/visual equipment, directions to the meeting, and hotel accommodations if necessary. 

 * Who’s the audience?

Find out who the audience is composed of. The more you know about the audience’s knowledge and attitude toward your subject (and toward you), the better you can structure your approach to meet their needs.

 * How big is the audience?

If it’s large, say over 50, then a microphone will undoubtedly be necessary. Ask for a lavaliere mike, if possible, because that frees you up to have some purposeful movement in front of the room. If that’s not available, then find out exactly what the PA system will be. 

 * How much time do you have?

This is an often-violated guideline in presentations. Here’s a great rule of thumb: however much time you’ve been allotted, rehearse it to be roughly 70% of that time. This ensures that you’ll honor your time limit and gives you a little cushion. Read between the lines on this: Audiences will always forgive you for going under your time limit.

 * What are your audio/visual needs?

Keep in mind that just because some group has asked you to speak, it doesn’t mean they will magically have everything you need for your presentation. Just stating that you’re planning on using a PowerPoint presentation may result in disaster if you assume the organization will provide the equipment, but your contact believes you will. Be sure to ask for what you want. If you’ll use a flip chart and markers, request them. If you’re going to use PowerPoint, ask for a computer projector. If you prefer not to bring your own laptop to hook up to the projector, inquire whether a laptop can be provided. And find out the best way you can get your PowerPoint loaded on it: disk, jump drive, or an advance email.

 * What are your logistics requests? 

Again, don’t be afraid to communicate what you’d like. Do you want a lectern or a table or nothing at all in the front of the room? Where would you like the screen located — in the center or angled off in a corner? Do you need a chair up front? What kind of microphone — lectern, hand-held, or lavaliere — would you prefer? Would you like some water handy?

 * How do you want the audience chairs set up?

If there’s some flexibility in the seating, indicate whether you’d like chairs arranged in auditorium style ( in rows) or in a U-shape, or whether you’d like the audience sitting at tables either classroom style or at rounds. To avoid as much last minute rearranging as possible, you could send your contact a room layout diagram indicating the placement of everything as you’d like it.

 *Get there early.

Arrive for your presentation early, so you can check out the room and make any adjustments to the set-up or equipment that you want. Whether you want to move the lectern or rearrange chairs, recognize that you have a right to make the room as conducive to an effective presentation as possible. And if you’re using PowerPoint, you absolutely want to get there early enough to check all the equipment and make sure you know how everything works. 

 Keep this checklist handy when arranging speaking engagements – these items can make a difference in your comfort level, which will be reflected in how well you do.

Barbara Busey, president of the training firm Presentation Dynamics, has been a professional speaker, trainer and author since 1990. She does training and speaking on the “dynamics” of how people “present” themselves, is the author of the book, “Stand Out When You Stand Up,” and is the creator of The Compelling Speaker, a unique presentation skills training program that combines advance audio CD instruction with a hands-on, ultra participative workshop. She now offers the Compelling Speaker Certification, a turnkey system — complete with training content & technique, business strategies, and marketing guidelines — that positions communicators to make a living training other business professionals to become more compelling speakers. Go to Compelling Speaker Certification to see her video, listen to her audio, and learn when the next Certification training is.

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