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Getting Ready To Present - Page 4 of 5

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Practice
Test Audience
Final Practice

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Practice

Kathy Jacobs on PowerPoint Okay, the presentation has been created, the notes written up, the handouts printed, and they look quite good. Are you ready to present?

Not quite. Actually, you have the most important piece of preparation yet to do. You need to practice the presentation.

Practicing the presentation means running through the actual slides while saying the words you want the audience to hear. You should practice several times by yourself or in front of a mirror or camera. Then, when you think you are ready to present, it is time to add a test audience.

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Test Audience

The test audience should be made up of people who will be honest, yet kind. If at all possible, the test audience should be a cross-section of the actual audience. If that isn't possible, instruct them on what the real audience will be like so they can evaluate you realistically.

The job of the test audience is to help you polish your presentation and anticipate problems and questions. Their job is not to pick on your particular presentation style. (Though if you make a huge gaffe, they should be willing to comment on it.)

Don't be afraid to ask the test audience the hard questions. Don't be afraid either of their answers. Take it as a learning experience and grow your presentation skills. You can't over-practice. What most people consider an over-practiced presentation is really one where the presenter has lost touch with the content, the message and the audience. As long as you keep connected, practice will only make you better.

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Final Practice

Once you have fully practiced the presentation, it is time for the real test. You want to do a timed practice of the presentation in the actual location where you will be speaking. I know this isn't always practical. If you can't get full practice time, you should at least get time to verify the machine set up, the room layout and where you can move. The more time you can get in the actual room, the higher the payoff will be.

The extra time running through the material in an unfamiliar location will allow you to verify everything is working. In addition, it will let you brainstorm techniques for working in the space you have been assigned.

This is especially important if you have been practicing in a small space and are actually presenting in a much larger space. You will need to test out how the microphone and sound system work with your voice. You will also need to check out how you and the presentation work in the available lighting.

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