Preparing for Your Business Presentation

Preparing a business presentation can seem far more difficult than it actually is. Do your preparation systematically, and you'll find it's quite simple. It's a matter of structuring the presentation so you can handle each element easily and deal with all the topics effectively.

Let's go through the process from the beginning:

The presentation brief

You've received a request to do a presentation on a topic, with various subjects and a criteria or "brief" for required information and maybe some research involved, with a deadline. This is your road map. It spells out exactly what's required. You can prepare each part of your brief in stages.

Setting up your presentation

The preparation phase needs some initial organization and time management.

Important: When preparing your presentation:

  • Make sure you can work uninterrupted on your presentation.

  • Allow plenty of time to do any research. Be generous with your allowance of time, so you can deal with any complex materials.

  • Stick to a time well within your deadline so you can review content.

  • Allow time for a dry run through your presentation before the due date.

  • Manage times for your presentation to be sure that it runs within the allotted time.

  • Use a word count for timing spoken materials.

Pre-production of your presentation

The practical preparation work will depend on the format you intend to use for your presentation. Decide on your preferred method of presentation, slide show, video, white board or other method, and design your presentation materials to work with that format.

The presentation structure should be outlined as a template for your materials, for example:

Introduction: Overview and welcome. Allow X minutes for this section. Remember you can tailor the introduction and close to accommodate the needs of the presentation.

Brief materials: Each subject in clearly separated subjects, using any prerequisite information for each element so your audience can follow the sequence of materials easily.

Slide show: Tailor slides to each specific subject. Prepare your slides for easy visibility. Ensure proper continuity of slides and that they run in the proper sequence. 

Research materials: Depending on content and your preferred presentation method, the research can be treated as either a separate sequence within the presentation or used within the context of other materials. Check with the manager who provided your brief if there are any special requirements for these materials.

Audience questions: This is usually optional, but common. Allow a reasonable amount of time out of the time allotted, like 20 minutes. An alternative arrangement is to allow 5 minutes at the end of each segment.

Summary and closing statements: The close can be brief, if required, but should be simple and courteous to the audience.

Don'ts for presentations

These are absolute Don'ts for business presentations:

Don't, ever, try doing a business presentation unprepared. You can't wing it with a professional business audience.

Don't cut corners on presentation quality. Never do a sloppy job of a presentation. Always be a class act. You could "present" yourself out of a promotion or job.

Don't leave out the pre-production steps. You can wind up with a presentation which just doesn't stick together.