How to Practice Your Presentation

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guy in navy blazer and dress shirt standing in front of an audience with a project pointing behind him
Practice and preparation are the keys to an effective presentation.

Preparing to give a presentation? If you’re like me I would spend hours working on a keynote or powerpoint presentation and think I was well prepared for the big client meeting or group presentation.

And while slides can be a big part our your presentation, working on them doesn’t count as practicing for the actual presentation.

In this article, I’m going to share what I’ve learned in preparing and practicing for presentations.

Start with your goal in mindAsk yourself why you’re giving this presentation, and what do I want to leave your audience with. Do you want them to take action, or to you want to motivate and inspire them?

Brainstorm with a Mind Map

Brainstorm with mind mapping is a great way to get all your ideas out of your head. To get started write down the goal in the top corner. This is not what you’ll start with but it’s there to remind you of your goal and why you are doing this.

Next write down your the topic of your presentation in the center of your page or screen if your using mind mapping software.

Now from the central idea branch out and connect your thoughts on paper. Once you have all your ideas out of your head it’s now time to organize them in a more structured way. It’s important to organize your main points in a logical way first.

TIP: If your stuck coming up with ideas try brainstorming around a problem and solutions.

Mind-mapping is a good way to start preparing for your presentation.

Outline Your Presentation

Use bullet points to structure your presentation in a logical way. The most basic structure is.

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

An even better way to structure your presentation is using A.I.D.A:

  1. Attention
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action

Write the outline down on a 3×5 index card or large sticky note. Rework the outline until it feels natural and makes sense to you. As you’re reorganizing the items, remove anything that doesn’t feel right. Don’t force something into your presentation because it came out from the brainstorm session. You only want the best ideas in the end.  

Try rewriting your outline until you feel clear about what you’re trying to convey. Once you feel confident and comfortable with the high level outline your halfway done.

Practice In Front of a Mirror

Once you have an outline your comfortable with stand up and practice it in front of the mirror. But wait you might say, I haven’t got my slides started yet. Or I don’t have my stories ready. That’s okay. Having a good outline is the most important step.

The mirror will help by giving you instant feedback. Remember to smile, have fun and relax. You’ll know what sounds good and what doesn’t. Make some notes and adjust your outline based on your mirror practice session.

TIP: Spend more time on your outline. Your slides and visuals will come more naturally when you’re working for a strong outline.

It may seem awkward to stand up and practice your presentation in the mirror this early on. But this step will save you a lot of time wasted playing around with powerpoint or keynote.

Standing up in front of a mirror will force you to think of what you would say in front of real people. Remember to keep a pen handy and write it down your good ideas. By doing this you’ll start to better understand how your stories and transitions will flow throughout your presentation.

TIP: After you’ve practiced in front of the mirror a few time record yourself with a webcam on your laptop or iPad. When you watch the recordings you’ll find new things to improve on.

Only after you’ve practiced like this from the outline and feel confident in your presentation should you start with your slides. Your confidence will boil over into your slides and make them so much better.

TIP: Of course do not use more than 10 slides.

Sleep On It

Take a rest and repeat this process a few more times by practicing your presentation from your outline in front of the mirror. You’ll find that between your practice sessions you’ll be thinking about new ideas, how you can improve points and make it flow together. Practice again, and repeat the process.

The more you practice the better you’ll get. If you want more ways to practice presentations skills–check out this article.