Maybe presentations are easy for you—or maybe you think they’re terrifying. If you’re in sales, presentations are a common job requirement, but even if you’re a pro, they can still be stressful.
The stress we feel around presentations usually comes from a fear of something going wrong. And since this is real life, things do go wrong! The good news is that you can often avoid disaster and stress with a few common-sense preparation tips:
- Always start preparing early.
- Always bring backups.
- Always budget extra time.
When you’re prepared, you’ll be able to stay calm and keep your presentation on the rails! Ready? Let’s dive in.
Always Start Preparing Early
I’ve always said printers can smell fear! When you’re trying to print out copies of your presentation 15 minutes before you leave for your meeting, that’s when a printer will decide to run out of paper, run out of ink, or have a paper jam.
Instead of being calm, cool, and collected in the minutes before your presentation, you’re freaking out in a copy room.
My rule of thumb: Be sure everything is prepared at least 4 hours—if not 24 hours—ahead of your start time. Right before a presentation, you should be mentally preparing—not making frantic, last-minute changes to your PowerPoint slides!
If your presentation is virtual, you still need to prepare ahead of time! You don’t want to find out something is broken after the meeting has started.
Always Bring Backups
Those handouts you’re printing? Print a few extra copies! It’s very common for one or two extra people to show up to a meeting, and running out of handouts just feels unprofessional. I print more than I need, and I make sure that I know my materials well enough that I can give up my copy if necessary.
You should also bring backups of your presentation itself. Have a copy of your Keynote or PowerPoint presentation files on a thumb drive, as well as somewhere on the cloud. If something goes wrong, you can quickly pivot to a backup option instead of trying to troubleshoot an issue right before your meeting.
Take a look at the other “essentials” you need for every presentation, and identify the items that are easy to bring a backup of. Throwing extra batteries or a cable in your bag is an easy way to prevent a presentation nightmare!
Always Budget Extra Time
A few years ago, I traveled to Los Angeles to give a presentation at a hotel. I got my laptop hooked up in the conference room, pulled up my presentation, and pressed my clicker to advance to the next slide.
Nothing. The battery was dead. I pulled the cover off the back and saw the battery had oozed gunk all over the inside of my presentation clicker!
It wasn’t a big deal because I had plenty of time to run down to the lobby, buy new (ridiculously overpriced) batteries, clean out the gunk from the old battery, and get everything working. It wasn’t a big deal, because I was prepared hours early!
When you budget extra time for travel and presentation set-up, problems are simply less stressful.
Extra Time For Travel
For an in-person, in-town meeting, I always plan to arrive 30 minutes early. You never know what delays you’ll run into! If everything goes smoothly, I’ll use the extra time for prospecting.
For out-of-town meetings, I’ll often plan to be 60 minutes early. If I’m flying in, I try to arrive the night before. When your presentation is in an unfamiliar town, be sure to look up directions the night before—and use the “Depart At / Arrive By” function in your maps app to see the estimated travel time for when you need to leave.
Extra Time For Setup
When booking a meeting space, I like to request an extra 15 minutes before the meeting time, so I can arrive early and get settled in. This allows me to check out the presentation equipment and be sure everything is working correctly.
When you’re presenting, you always want to be the first in the room. With the extra time, you can choose where you sit, set up, and take a breath before everyone arrives. When people are coming in and shaking hands, you’ll be able to greet them—instead of trying to hook everything up in a frenzy.
Always Be Prepared!
Sales presentations might not be part of your everyday routine, but every professional has to give a presentation now and then. With a little preparation, you’ll be able to avoid stress and focus on your presentation skills!
Until next time—go sell some stuff!
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