One of the statements most often spoken by anyone faced with a big presentation is “I need to practice.” For life science startup CEOs and leadership teams, this is in many cases, a topic of conversation. “I need to practice.” “We need to practice.” “We need to schedule practice.” “This presentation is critical because it influences our funding.” It is common to think practice is easy, but it is not. It is not easy to schedule; it is not easy to do as a team; it is not easy … period. While this is good for people like me because it is part of what we offer, it is time to demystify practice. I will outline five best practices of practice…so you can practice better!
Strategize and write
The first step to good practice is to take the time to purposefully consider, structure, and write what is going to be said. The biggest problem for most people is they believe their “story” is easy to tell and easy to understand. It is not. Without consideration and strategic writing, your message will be confusing to listeners. Remember, the goal is to write something that is for your listeners, NOT you.
Readout loud and consider
One of the most significant issues with most presentations is that the nonverbal presentation is not considered. Before you practice your presentation, you should read it out loud to yourself and others. Consider how you want to sound. What needs emphasis? What is important? How do you want to say that? Make notes of these things in your presentation. Nonverbal communication is not something that happens; it requires planning as well when communication is essential.
Schedule and commit to a realistic time
We are all busy people. Practice begins with a frank conversation with yourself and the other members of your team who will be presenting. What time can you commit? If the presentation is important, it should be easy to invest the time. The biggest mistake we hear from people is, “I’m just so busy.” Honestly, I have never met a business person who is NOT busy. In your discussions set the level of importance of the presentation. Agree to that importance and discuss a realistic time frame. Commit to that time and schedule it.
Record and review
The most common feedback we hear about practice is, “When we practiced the presentation, it went great and was the right time. It wasn’t the same when we presented.” The reason is that practice was NOT realistic. Recording your practice allows you to review the presentation and be constructively critical of yourself and others to make a more realistic assessment of your presentation. Were you going too fast? What is the difference between what you thought when giving your presentation and what you see? I know it is difficult. It is not something anyone enjoys, but recording and reviewing are instrumental and important.
Reconsider and re-write
Before you put the presentation to bed—after all of the practice, and review, and discussion—be open to the idea that it’s not perfect. The presentation CAN always be improved. With a critical eye, what can improve? Consider as a group and then change the presentation. Make the changes, practice those parts.
With the right commitment and outlook, following these best practices can help you deliver a well-constructed, coordinated, and impactful presentation. The most important lesson is the practice! Without well-structured practice, success is limited. There is no more mystery; you can accomplish your goals with these steps. Simple.