People fear public speaking. But as Purdue Extension staff, we're frequently called on to speak in public. A little planning and preparation can help push fear aside and ensure powerful presentations.

Planning Your Presentation

When planning a presentation, answer the following questions:

  • What is your purpose?
  • How can you simplify your purpose?
  • Who makes up your audience?
  • How many handouts do you need?
  • What does your audience expect from your presentation?
  • How much time do you have to present?
  • What is the room like where the presentation will take place?
  • What is the A/V and electrical situation in the room?

Creating Your Presentation

When creating a presentation, remember these tips:

  • Consider the three Es: Educate, Entertain, and Explain.
  • Put your most important information at the beginning of your presentation.
  • Use simple and direct sentences.
  • Use the pronouns "you" and "I".
  • Use active verbs - see Grammar Trap: Active vs. Passive Voice or the Purdue Online Writing Lab
  • Include examples and analogies.
  • Avoid jargon and unnecessary words.
  • Continuously edit and cut your presentation before you deliver it.

Preparing for Your Presentation

It's important to rehearse your presentation several times before delivering it. Try videotaping yourself to see firsthand how your presentation looks. Avoid saying "uh" and "um". Also, make sure you have water available when you're delivering the presentation, especially if you are speaking for an extended period. 

It might be a good idea to create a checklist of all the equipment, visuals, handouts, etc. that you will use.

Preparing for Problems During Your Presentation

Not all presentations go as smoothly as planned. Here are some common problems that may occur.

  • Not Enough Time or Less Time
    Don't talk faster. Instead, decide what the most important parts of each section are and how much time you will be able to devote to each.
  • Equipment Failure
    Preparing ahead of time helps. If you're familiar with your material, just forge ahead. But do as much in advance as you can. For example, if you need to visit a website in your presentation but don't have an Internet connection, downloading the pages will still at your office before heading to your session may help. Even if it doesn't, be prepared with a Plan B.
  • Lackadaisical Audience
    Add more energy. Consider using humor (carefully) or calling upon your audience.
  • Hostile Audience
    Remain firm but polite, stay in control, and help your audience seek a solution. Avoid using humor as that could be seen as a sign that you take their concerns lightly.

Delivering Your Presentation

When delivering your presentation, remember to:

  • Be natural.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Ask questions.
  • Keep time with a wall clock or take off your watch - looking at a watch makes you look impatient.
  • Acknowledge difficulties and move on.
  • Use pauses.

Avoiding Mistakes

To avoid mistakes, remember that there are things you should never say or use. 

Never say:

  • "I was going to ..."
  • "You know what I mean?"
  • "Can you read this?"
  • "I am sorry about ..."
  • "The other speaker took too long?"
  • "They didn't tell me ..."

Don't use:

  • Tactless jokes.
  • Offensive language.
  • Insulting comments.

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