This guest post couldn’t be more timely for my upcoming Masterclass course on Presentations. When guest writer and fellow teacher, Sam Pealing, offered to write about this subject, I leapt at the opportunity. Haven’t we all thought of having a checklist before a presentation but somehow have failed to prepare one? I know I have many times and later regretted it.
Sam’s presentation checklist is a wonderfully simple and practical tool to help any presenter be prepared for and feel confident about their presentation.
For many English learners, the day before a big presentation can be very stressful. You probably have many worries, like:
- Is your presentation any good?
- Are your slides pretty enough?
- Are people going to understand you?
The truth is worrying won’t help you. In fact, it will just make you more stressed. Instead, you should spend 1-2 hours making sure you are fully prepared and then just relax.
In this article, you’ll find a checklist of 10 things that will help you to feel less stressed about your presentation. After completing this checklist, you’ll be ready to give a powerful and engaging presentation.
#1 Check the pronunciation of key words – 10 minutes
Key words are words which are significant to your presentation topic. You probably say them quite a few times throughout your presentation, too. For example, if you were giving a presentation about medicine, your keywords could be ‘patient’, ‘vaccine’ and ‘antibiotic’.
Key word pronunciation is important. Here’s why:
Last year, I was watching a presentation where the presenter was talking about the effect of working at sea on relationships.You’re probably thinking, “Wow! What an interesting topic!”Well, I spent the first five minutes of the presentation confused about why the presenter was talking about “the sheep”.The presenter wasn’t actually talking about ‘the sheep’! He was talking about “the ship”, but he wasn’t pronouncing the word correctly.It seems like a small mistake, but it can have an impact on your overall presentation.
Don’t make the same mistake as him! Ensure that you are pronouncing your key words correctly.
An easy way to do this is to make a list of your key words, and then use this dictionary to check the pronunciation:
Do this: check the pronunciation of your key using this dictionary.
#2 Check your slides for spelling and grammar – 10 minutes
If you compare your presentation to a movie, you are the star and your presentation slides are your supporting cast.Your presentation slides may get a lot of attention from the audience because people like to have something to read while they listen. And while they read, they will often read everything very carefully.
So imagine that you are your audience. Read each of your slides carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes. By doing this, you can save yourself some embarrassment.
Do this: Check the grammar and spelling on your slides by reading them out loud.
#3 Check your statistics and references – 10 minutes
You have probably done this already, but it can’t hurt to check once more.Go back through all of the references and statistics that you have used in your presentation and make sure that:
- The numbers, quotations and references are accurate.
- The dates are accurate.
- You know how to pronounce important names and numbers.
Do this: Go through your presentation and make a list of all the references and numbers. Practise saying them out loud and make sure they are all correct.
#4 Practice your introduction – 5 minutes
When you stand in front of a room full of people, it can be really intimidating. The best way to overcome this feeling is to have a really well-practised introduction that engages your audience.
You want to aim to know your introduction so well that you can recite it automatically – almost without thinking. You’ll start your presentation confidently. This confidence will continue through the rest of your presentation.
But confidence isn’t the only benefit. If you can start your presentation with a strong, well prepared introduction, you’ll create a good first impression.
Do this: practice your introduction 2-4 times until you can say it without looking at any notes.
#5 Prepare Your Question Responses – 5 minutes
Most presentations have a section at the end where the presenter answers questions from the audience. Will you have a question and answer (Q&A) section in your presentation?
If the answer is ‘yes’, then you should prepare how you will answer the questions.
Here are some expressions that you can use to help you:
- First, thank the person for asking you a question:
- “Thank you for your question.”
- Then, clarify your understanding of the question
- “If I understand correctly, do you mean…”
- “I don’t quite understand your question. Could you rephrase it?”
- Answer the question.
- Finally, check that the person understands your answer.
- “Does that answer your question?”
But what should you do if you can’t answer the question?
That’s an easy one!
Thank the person for their question and tell them that you can’t answer right now. Reassure them that you will find out the answer and you will let them know. Here’s a script that you can try:
“Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, I can’t answer it right now. If you would like to give me your email address, I would be happy to find out the answer for you and email you.”
Do this: Practise the expressions above and write them on one of your cue cards so you don’t forget. If you know where your audience is from, try getting familiar with their accent.
#6 Practice Your Transitions – 10 minutes
One of your roles as a presenter is to guide your audience through your presentation. One effective way to do this is to use transitions (also known as signposting) for each section.
If you’ve ever been in a long lecture or presentation, you will know that it’s difficult to focus your attention for a long period of time. This is where transitions fit in.
Transitions are where you close one section and introduce the next section. Transitions can be one or two sentences long, but they can really help your audience to follow your presentation easily.
Here’s how you can easily use them at the end of a section:
“And that brings me to the end of this section. In the next section I will talk about…[what you will talk about]”
Do this: Insert transitions between each section. This will make it really easy for your audience to follow and enjoy your presentation.
#7 Review Your Cue Cards – 5 minutes
Cue cards are those small pieces of paper which help you to remember your points. They usually only contain a few words or notes and they should be used as a guide, not a script.
Review your cue cards to make sure that:
- They make sense
- You can use them
- You don’t read from them.
Do this: Check your cue cards to make sure they are useful. Put them in the correct order.
#8 Check the order of your slides – 5 minutes
This one might seem basic, but sometimes you move and change things at the last minute. At this stage, you should stop editing and changing your slides.
Just make sure that everything is in the correct order, and you’ll be okay.
Do this: Stop editing and changing your slides. Just make sure that they are all in the correct order.
#9 Time Yourself – 10+ minutes
Most presentation events have a time limit applied to them. If your presentation has a time limit, then it is your duty to keep to it.
Do two full practices of your presentation and time them.
If you go over your time limit, then perhaps you need to remove something from your presentation.
If you are under the time limit, then you could try speaking slower.
#10 Get familiar with your presentation surroundings – 20+ minutes
This last one is not essential, but it is a bonus step which can make you feel better on the day.
On the day before your presentation, travel to the place where you will give your presentation, and find out:
- How big the rooms are
- How many people will be there, and
- What the technology is like.
This type of investigation will lower your stress levels and help you to feel more comfortable.
And it doesn’t just work for presentations – it’s also a great tip for interviews.
Do this: Visit the place where you will give your presentation.
So, what should you do now?
- Go and download the ‘Day Before’ Presentation Checklist here.
- Spend 1-2 hours doing final preparations.
- Relax and enjoy the rest of the day.
- Give a fantastic presentation!
Good luck in your presentations!
Excellent tips, Sam. This checklist will be an invaluable help for my participants in my Masterclass course when they prepare their assignments during the course.
✦✦✦✦Brand New Online Course!!!!✦✦✦✦
I have just launched my brand new group online course “Masterclass on Presentations”. However, it is only available to my VIP List of Eager Learners who signed up to my waiting list until Monday 19 September.
The course will be available to the rest of my email followers on Tuesday 20 September.
The course is limited to a maximum of 15 participants. Once the places are filled, I will close submissions. If you don’t want to miss your spot, I’d suggest you add yourself to my Waiting List of Eager Learners now.
Oh and by the way… if you secure your place now, you’ll get the Early Bird Discount too!!!
Ciao for now
About Sam Pealing
Sam Pealing is an English language coach who specialises in English for university and helping you become an independent learner. He is a lecturer in English for Academic Purposes and is the founder of the site, English For Study. You can sign up to his free email masterclass The Five Reasons You’re Not Improving here.