In the world of health care public relations agencies, presentations take on many forms – sharing findings from environmental scans and landscape analyses, presenting patient education and awareness programs, and providing updates on thought leadership efforts to name a few. This can be a daunting task for those of us who aren’t natural public speakers, but it’s an essential skillset you can build and improve.
No matter what the presentation is – big or small, internal or external – proper preparation is the key to ensuring your ideas are conveyed in an effective and confident manner and that the presentation is ultimately a success.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Outlined below are the three Ps for ensuring a successful presentation.
First and foremost, always know precisely what is expected of you going into any presentation.
From a content perspective, will you be responsible for providing an update or two? Are you owning specific PowerPoint slides as part of a larger presentation? Are you leading the entire presentation?
From a logistical perspective, for an in-person meeting, do you need to ensure a specific document is up on the screen in the meeting room or materials are printed and laid out? If the meeting is virtual, does your backdrop showcase professionalism and do you have the necessary documents open, with any distractions minimized?
Regardless of your role, arriving or logging on a few minutes early for any presentation is always important. Make sure you have your notes ready and get yourself a glass of water. This may seem obvious but taking those extra few minutes will allow you time to collect yourself and prepare mentally before the presentation begins. It will also provide a cushion should any technical difficulties arise.
Outlining your presentation and associated talking points is another way to ensure your success. The purpose of this exercise is not to provide a finished document to read from. Writing out your talking points will help you gather and organize your thoughts, as well as help you highlight important points you want to hit home. It’s OK to glance at your notes periodically and use them to jog your memory and keep you on track during your presentation, but don’t use them as a crutch. Your audience can tell when you are reading, and it takes away your credibility as a presenter.
Don’t underestimate the importance of practicing your presentation ahead of time – both on your own and with a colleague. Even if you are completely confident on the topic and have developed your notes to guide you, actually speaking your thoughts out loud is a different ballgame. Practicing your presentation will help you identify any sections that are causing you to stumble and will ultimately help you convey confidence on the day of your presentation.
It’s also important to rehearse with any technology, such as advancing slides or playing video clips, that you plan to use during the real presentation. This will help you avoid any unexpected mishaps and will be one less thing for you to worry about during the presentation.
Remember, building your presentation skills takes time and won’t happen overnight. Ask your colleagues for feedback after each presentation so you can use each opportunity as a chance to learn and grow. And keep these three Ps – preparation, planning, and practice – top of mind to ensure your success!