Presenting in a Pinch

Okay, so you’re up. It’s your time to shine – like or not – and you need to prepare for a presentation for a conference.

Let’s do a quick checklist of things to do to prepare.

Managing the Request

Here are some standard questions and circumstances to ask and consider as you manage a presentation request and prepare.

  • What timing are you working with? Is the presentation due in advance? When? What date are you actually presenting? Is there an approval process?
  • Presentation requirements. Is there a standard template presenters are being asked to use? How long are you being asked to present for?
  • Who’s going to present? If there’s only one person going, this is easy. But think in advance about who’s presenting, so the presentation can be built to their strengths.
  • Technology considerations. Hybrid conferences are here (to stay???), so not only do you need to know if half your audience will be virtual, you’ll want to know if you’re being asked to come in person or present virtually.

Building the Presentation

  • Who are you presenting to? In all honesty, this could also be categorized under “managing the request.” But by the time you start building your outline, you should have a sense of who you’re speaking to. That will help determine what to include (or not).
  • Whether you’re using a deck or not; PREPARE AN OUTLINE! Organize your thoughts. Figure out your flow. Determine your “What’s the point.”
  • [A quick gut-check should happen about here, but we’ll get into that more below]
  • To be clear, this section is written in order of process, and graphics tend to come last! Please don’t waste your time painstakingly building a table while outlining, only to have to reimagine everything after a review. But also, you should have graphics. Stretch your creativity!

Review the Presentation

  • Reviews should be happening throughout. It’s totally understandable to brain dump as you’re building a presentation, especially if you have a complex topic you want to break down for an audience of non-experts. But each iteration should come with a review, especially if you’re using a deck. Don’t wait to do the first review until after you have laid out the presentation!
  • Outside perspective. You’re feeling good. Things are in a “good” place and you’re getting excited. Let me be hyperbolic for a second and say, “let someone burst your bubble.” As the person who has been working on the presentation, you’re just too close to it. You need those knowledgeable about the topic to sit and listen. It’s the best way to know if you are making sense.
  • Think about your presentation in context of the conference. Is it happening on the first day or last day of a conference? Before or after lunch? More importantly, are you the only thing standing in the way of dinner or drinks? Keep this in mind in terms of timing, pace, and energy you bring to the presentation.
  • One more spin beforehand. If you have time to find a quiet corner and practice introductions and transitions, do it. There is no such thing as being overprepared.

Delivering the presentation

  • Get to your meeting room early. This is just good practice, but there are several reasons for this:
    • If you’re using a deck, make sure your computer is working and can connect to any equipment to run the presentation.
    • Make sure the internet is stable if it’s a crucial part of the presentation.
    • ::Tap, Tap:: Is your mic working okay? Get there early and make sure!
    • Are you walking into a sauna or a freezer – either way get there early, so logistic technicians can make adjustments.
  • Adjust to the room. You may have planned a big grand lecture, but attendance is low. That’s okay, turn it into a personal chat with direct audience feedback and conversation.
  • Stay/Linger. Give people a chance to chat and make connections with you and their peers in the room.

Final Note

Okay, there is something I’m not mentioning, because it’s not something teachable.


A lot can be forgiven during a presentation, if you’re fun, likeable, and informative.

Looking for a comms perspective on your industry and want us to presentation in front of a room of movers and shakers? Get in touch.

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