The ‘Stumble Through’: a critical part of any successful presentation prep.

You’ve built your presentation, you’ve created your slides, you’ve clicked through them a few times figuring out what you’ll say, you’re thinking you’re good to go. Right? Uh, not so fast.  There’s only one way to know if you’ve got your presentation where you want it, and that is to talk through it OUT LOUD. Clicking through your slides and thinking about what you’ll say DOES NOT COUNT. In order to give a successful presentation you must have what I call a ‘stumble through’.

Why a ‘stumble through’ rather than a ‘practice’? Because the first time through any presentation out loud is never a smooth experience. In the hundreds of presentations I’ve helped build, (including my own) I have yet to see one delivered uninterrupted the first time through.

Here’s what happens when you run through your presentation the first time. Most likely you’ll end up coming to a screeching halt right after the intro – (once you’ve figured out the intro). The screeching halt is caused by a completely common phenomenon; you don’t have a transition between your intro and your first big point. What to say?  How to get from the intro to this first big point? The best way to figure this out is by experimenting.; try things out – see how they sound. Got something that works?  Good, now you can move on.

Uh oh – stopped again. This time because you’ve got a slide (or idea) in the wrong place. You simply cannot get from point A to point F. No worries, you move point F to where it belongs, after point E, and you’re moving forward again.

Until you get to point E, which you now realize doesn’t really belong in this presentation at all. It’s a digression, one you don’t have time for. But now what about point F? Turns out that one is unnecessary as well. OK, you delete and move forward.

As you get to your third big point you realize it’s a little thin. Where is your proof of this point? Good thing you realized this now (instead of in front of a real live audience!), better add a chart or two to solidify your argument.

On this goes until you’ve stumbled to the conclusion. Now you have (most of) the pieces in place, and you’ve got a presentation that’s ready to be practiced OUT LOUD. You only need to practice a few times – no more than four. You simply want to know your transitions, be super familiar with the animations (the clicks) so you know what’s coming next. A good night’s sleep and you’re ready!

After you’ve built your next presentation take the time and energy (and lots of patience) to ‘stumble through’ it. You’ll see and hear where things are missing, what’s in the wrong place and what doesn’t belong. Then you’ll easily be heard, and you’ll be giving presentations that NAIL IT.

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