Sometimes, you have to prepare for an important presentation at the last minute.
Maybe you were asked to fill in for someone on short notice, or perhaps you’ve known about it for some time but received critical information the night before or morning of. Maybe you just procrastinated or were too busy to get it done in a timely manner.
It happens to all of us (hopefully, not too often)!
Regardless, you still want to pull together a good presentation and deliver it well. When you have no choice but to do a rush job, here are some tips on preparing for and delivering presentations at the last minute.
Fine-tune to your audience.
It can be seductively easy to throw together old materials, re-label old slides, or repurpose a presentation you’ve given before without making any changes.
That’s a risky choice, though, because your audience has changed. Each presentation requires critical thinking about who is in your audience:
- What’s important to them?
- What is their level of knowledge of the topic?
- Perhaps most importantly, ask yourself: “What is my goal for this audience?”
Your answers will guide you on ways to quickly fine-tune slides you've used before, to make them relevant and persuasive for your current audience.
Check your slides.
When you do re-purpose old slides, after you’ve finished fine-tuning them, carefully check each one.
- Is the presentation title still accurate?
- Is the slide title still accurate?
- Is your data timely?
- Is the message of the slide still relevant and interesting to your new audience?
- If this is a customer-facing presentation, are there any references to another customer? Check carefully for this!
Frame the content.
You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s no less true: Start and finish strong. Think about your opening and closing. When you’re pressed for time, focus the majority of rework on these areas. These should be very tailored to your audience.
Don't forget about delivery.
In last minute situations it’s easy to let nervous energy prevail, rush through your delivery, and not focus enough on your audience.
Before your presentation:
- Get familiar with the technical bits, like the projector, computer, Internet connection, and microphone (if you're going to be using one).
- Think about where you might move around to best engage the audience, but not block their view of the screen or visuals.
During your presentation, remember to use appropriate:
- Eye contact
- Voice (Speak with confidence, don’t talk too fast, and use pauses.)
- Good posture
We’ve all been there (and we’ll probably find ourselves there again). As stressful as they can be, last minute presentations don’t have to be mediocre clones of ones you’ve given before.
In just a little bit of time, with a little bit of effort, minor tweaks to content and delivery can have a huge impact.
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