Be Prepared, Be Very Prepared

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.” So said Henry Ford; and given the amount of success he enjoyed, it’s worth listening to that advice.

It’s certainly sensible when you’re getting a presentation together. The key here is to leave nothing to chance, because experience suggests that anything you leave to chance is likely to go wrong – in front of your entire audience, and often when there’s no time to fix it.

You can have the greatest, most inspiring presentation in the world, but it’s not enough. If things start going wrong that you could have checked out beforehand but didn’t, that presentation is almost certainly doomed to failure.

It’s important to cover all the angles, too. I put together a little presentation the other day. It was for children, not business people: but as you’ll know if you’ve ever presented to them, children can be a tough audience.

My presentation was about volcanoes, as it happened. I had a great talk, interesting and full of “wow” moments. I had a superb video clip about a volcano erupting. I had another clip about a related subject which I only glanced at, but it looked good enough.

I should have known. Leaving things to chance is just making yourself a hostage to fortune. That second clip was long, rambling and in places almost inaudible, even at the maximum volume level.

The children still liked my presentation. (You know about it when they don’t.) But I could tell I was losing them with that second clip. If I’d checked it out properly, I’d have ditched it for something better.

True, I was pushed for time. But aren’t we all? Believe me, it’s better to spend a few more minutes selecting the right material than have to stand there for what seems like an eternity as your presentation goes pear-shaped.

I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of rehearsing your presentation, of running through it and listening to yourself. This is vital; but it’s just as important to check out the externals.

Do you have enough seats for your audience? Sounds trivial, but delaying your presentation for ten minutes while you rush around hunting up chairs won’t make a very professional impact.

If you’re using a microphone, do a sound check before you start the presentation. Is the lighting okay, or is there some intrusive sunshine coming in that distracts the audience? (This can happen sometimes, even in England.)

Have you got all the notes you need to give the talk? Again, this sounds almost too simple to mention. But there’s nothing worse than standing up in front of a possibly critical crowd only to find that pages 3 and 4 have gone absent without leave.

Are you sure you know how to operate the laptop, the projector and any other equipment?

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. As Pasteur said, “Fortune favours the prepared mind.” By contrast, the unprepared mind – and the unprepared presenter – is asking for trouble.

As I’m in quotation mode, I’d like to leave you with this thought. William Arthur Ward said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. And the great teacher inspires.”

All very true, but I would add one more: “The smart teacher prepares beforehand.”

By David Vickery


Published On: 11th Sep 2009

Read more about -
Public Speaking,Speaking Articles ,

  1. thak’s a lot for your helpful tips

    bojuna 21 Nov at 10:23 am
  2. i like it so much…so simple
    but how can i download it??

    uzu 12 Mar at 4:55 am
  3. Hi Uzu

    I’m a bit confused about what you were trying to download?

    admin 12 Mar at 4:07 pm