There's nothing more nerve-wracking than having a big presentation coming up and feeling unprepared. Public speaking can be difficult. Not feeling ready makes it even more of a trial. Learn the essential steps for presentation preparation.
If you want to calm those nerves and wow your audience, then it's a good idea to understand the basics of creating attention-getting presentations.
In this guide, I'll share 12+ presentation preparation tips that'll walk you through how to prepare for a presentation from start to finish. So, you can feel confident when preparing to give a presentation.
Find Premium Presentation Slides on Envato Elements
One way to save time in the presentation preparation phase is to use a premium template to design your slides. This will help you feel secure about how your presentation looks, even if design skills aren't your core strength.
A great place to find templates when preparing to give a presentation is Envato Elements. This marketplace has a great offer you can grab today. Download as many premium PowerPoint presentation templates as you want, all for one low price.
This offer includes other items you can use to make your presentations stand out, like stock photos, graphics, icons, and more.
The great thing about using premium design elements for your presentations is that they're well supported by the creators, are compatible with major software and apps, and are kept up to date.
Get More PowerPoint Presentation Templates on GraphicRiver
Envato Elements is an excellent resource if you've got plenty of presentations to do. But if you need a single presentation template for one-off use, try GraphicRiver.
GraphicRiver is a great option if you prefer to pay as you go, and choose a single PowerPoint presentation template each time you need to create a new presentation.
How to Prepare a Good Presentation Step by Step in 2021 (+ Expert Quotes)
Now, let's look at some of the key steps in preparing a presentation, covering everything from topic selection to delivery, so you understand how to develop a presentation :
1. Choose the Right Topic
One of the most important presentation preparation tips is to pick the right topic for your presentation. You've got a few choices that'll give you a head start on wowing your audience. For example, you can:
- Choose a topic you're passionate about. This will make it easy to give an animated and appealing presentation.
- Pick your topic based on your knowledge and skills, so that you can wow your audience with the information you include.
- Do a data-driven presentation based on the latest statistics on a topic of interest, plus your expert opinion or conclusions.
- Select a presentation topic that relates to your business goals, such as reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs) or revenue.
Stephanie Schwab, Marketing Expert, Coach and Consultant, advises:
"Finding the right topic is all about knowing your audience. What's keeping them up at night? What do they really need to hear from you, right now, that will help them in their lives, or their businesses? If you're not sure what they need, ask them - survey them through email, ask your community on social media, talk to your customers directly. Meet your audience where they are and they will come to you again and again."
2. Know Your Audience
Related to that, another important step in presentation preparation is to know your audience. Your presentation plan will be completely different depending on whether audience members are novices or experts in your topic. Understanding who you're presenting to helps you select appropriate data and anecdotes to convey your topic.
Jared Karol, Speaker, Coach and Group Facilitator, says it's extremely important to think of your audience when preparing your presentation:
"If you can trust that your content and presentation flow is solid, you can give more attention to how your audience is thinking and feeling during and after the presentation. Involve the audience as much as possible. Invite them to be part of the presentation––whether rhetorically by using "we" and/or "you" language––and literally by utilizing chat and poll features, or, depending on the size of the group, allowing verbal interaction. Remember that you are creating an experience, not just delivering content."
If you're presenting to the C-suite, you'll want to keep your presentation short and focused to avoid wasting their time. Learn more executive presentation preparation tips in the following article:
- PresentationsHow to Give a Presentation to Senior Management & Executives in 2021 (+ Expert Tips)Sharon Hurley Hall
The next tip in our series of presentation steps is to brainstorm. This can be something you do on your own or with others. Either way, note down initial ideas and inspiration for your presentation. Use tools like mind mapping to connect related concepts.
By the end of this process, you'll have a clearer idea of the intended focus of your presentation and can move onto the next stage of your presentation plan.
4. Do Your Research
If you're thinking about how to prepare a great presentation, one of the key elements that separates good business presentations from the rest is research.
Tara Furiani, CEO & Host, Not the HR Lady, says:
"On our show, Not the HR Lady, we are huge proponents of ‘facts’ and call on our audience to fact check us. Presentations must be rooted in more than the theories of the presenter, to be credible. This can take on a lot of different looks. For me, I use and reference a lot of movies, music and pop culture to humorously drive serious points home (like racism, misogyny, bigotry, etc…) and that means finding just the right clip that illustrates your point.
Not all ‘research’ has to be academic in nature, but all presentations should call upon someone other than one’s own opinions, for maximum impact and action."
Once you know your topic, you can search for supporting information such as:
- recent news or features
- the latest statistics (taken from reliable sources like .gov and .edu industry reports, and Google Dataset Search)
- relevant quotations
Once you've got that information, you're ready for the next step in presentation preparation.
5. Plan Your Presentation
Now it's time to put your presentation plan together. This is where you bring together ideas from your brainstorm and information from your research and organize them into a rough outline.
A good way to do this is with headings for different parts of your presentation and bullet points with facts, quotes, and stats. By the end of this process, you'll have a pretty good idea of the content of your slides. That's a crucial part of presentation preparation.
6. Draft/Write Your Presentation
Of course, creating a presentation isn't just about the slides. Use the outline you've created to draft the spoken part of your presentation. It's good to start with an overview of what your presentation will cover. Get it right, and this will whet your audience's appetite and make them pay attention.
Plan your introduction to draw your audience in. Using a story, or an unusual fact or stat can help with this. Christina Strickland, Vice President of Crackerjack Marketing, says:
"Presentation introductions are a chance to capture your audience’s attention right away. This is a good time to set the tone for the presentation and the meeting in general. Before you head in, know in your own mind the objectives for yourself and for your audience. When you introduce the presentation, begin by laying out the objectives for the audience and then a quick overview of the format and flow. This will help participants know what to expect and the right time to ask questions."
Plan your conclusion, too. It's helpful to know where you're headed so you can steer your presentation the right way.
Use storytelling throughout to keep your audience's attention. Don't be concerned if the final spoken presentation is a little different from your prepared outline. The outline is a guide, but you'll know what you need to include or exclude as you start to polish the actual presentation.
- SlideShareHow to Write Great Pitch Decks (With Powerful Storytelling Techniques)Brenda Barron
- Microsoft PowerPointHow to Tell Effective Visual Stories in Your PowerPoint PresentationsAndrew Childress
That's part of the reason you don't always need to create your slides at the outline stage of presentation planning. Instead, update that initial outline based on what your ACTUAL presentation will be. Then it's time for slide preparation (PPT templates, as you'll see, will be a big asset for the next stage).
7. Design Your Presentation Slides
Wondering how to prepare your presentation with minimum hassle? Use a premium presentation template from Envato Elements to get a harmonious design. This means you can focus on your content, rather than worrying about needing graphic design skills. Remember, you can download unlimited PowerPoint presentation templates from Envato Elements, all for one low price.
Here are some other useful presentation preparation tips:
- Don't overdo the font choice. A single heading font and a single body font will be fine for most presentations.
- Choose your fonts carefully. Some fonts look attractive on your computer but are hard to read.
- Pay attention to font size. You'll need to make sure that even someone who's at the back of the room can read your slides.
- Avoid walls of text. They make slides hard to read and is pretty off-putting. A wall of text is a sure way to lose your audience.
- Make one key point per slide. Have a few supporting bullet points.
- Use charts, graphics, images, and quotes. They can help make your points and keep your audience's attention.
For more presentation creation tips, check out our in-depth PowerPoint tutorial: How to Use PowerPoint (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).
8. Expect Questions
Once your main presentation is ready, there's one more way to make your presentation great. That's to prepare for questions. As part of your presentation planning, you should:
- Think about what people might ask about your presentation content and be ready with answers.
- Consider how to deliver your presentation to lead people to ask certain questions that you're prepared for.
- Prepare an answer for when you've got no answer so that you're not left floundering.
Christina Strickland says:
"Unexpected questions are bound to happen. Don’t feel like you are required to answer every question that comes up. It’s always good to have a few different responses prepared for different types of questions. Remember, it’s ok to say “That’s a really good question but it’s not really in my area of expertise.”"
9. Practice the Presentation
When you're happy with your slides and have prepared for questions, it's time for some presentation practice. This is where you do a complete run-through of your presentation, with both your presentation script and the slides.
As you practice, pay attention to anything that doesn't flow, or is hard to say. Edit both your script and your presentation slides to remove these items. You don't want to be stumbling over your words on the day.
Some people prefer to practice alone but consider using a few friends or trusted colleagues as a test audience. It's a good way to make sure your material is clear and easy to understand.
Keep practicing till you feel you know your material inside out. This will help you deliver a polished presentation when it's time. If you're presenting online, Jared Karol suggests:
"The biggest thing to focus on when delivering presentations virtually is the idea of presence over performance. Try to recreate as closely as possible the vibe and feel you would create if you were all in the room together. Yes, prepare and rehearse. Yes, make sure the technology is good to go. And, remember that how you deliver the information is just as important as what information you're delivering. Wherever possible, try to personalize and humanize your presentation. Try to make your audience feel something not just remember something."
To learn more about presenting in public, read our public speaking guide:
10. Prepare the Room
When thinking about how to practice for a presentation, there's one element some people overlook: the presentation space. If it's possible, check it out well before it's time for you to present.
One thing to pay attention to is the presentation equipment. Whether you're using a laptop and screen, a projector and screen, or some other piece of technology, get familiar with the presentation technology so you can ensure it'll work as expected.
And if you're able to book rehearsal time, take advantage of it. If you do, there won't be any surprises on the day.
Here are a few additional tips for giving an online presentation.
11. Adjust Slide Design For Virtual Displays
If you're doing a virtual presentation, one of the most important tips for presentation preparation is to adjust the design of your slides. People will tune in from different size screens. So, make sure you don't have any text too near the top, bottom or sides of the slide, or some people won't be able to see it. Stephanie Schwab says:
"I like to give instructions to the audience on how to get the best view of the presentation; I use Zoom most of the time, so I'll do a quick explanation of how to switch from gallery view to speaker view, and how to slide the screensharing portion bigger or smaller. That way I can have a little bit more confidence that the audience will take in the presentation in the way I want them to see it, and not get distracted by gallery view."
12. Look After Background and Lighting
We've all been on Zoom calls where the speaker is backlit, or where there's something distracting in the background. Avoid both of these so your audience can focus on your presentation. Experiment with the room you're presenting in to find the best lighting or get a ring light or two to ensure your face is always visible. And consider using a virtual background to keep distractions to a minimum.
Tara Furiani says:
"The differences between presentations online and those that are in-person, are largely dependent on the skill of the facilitator. For example, one who’s engaging, tech savvy and can command a room… should find the presentations in-person or online, pretty much the same. When I present in a live setting, I use far less imagery than I would for an online session, because the focus would be on me. Virtually, I tend to add a touch more visual content, since my face alone should only be looked at for so long. By anyone."
13. Use Interactive Features
When preparing your presentation plan for an online presentation, try interactive features in your delivery platform to keep the audience engaged. Since you won't be able to use - or see body language - here are some tactics to try:
- Include polls.
- Ask questions people can respond to in the chat section.
- Encourage the use of emoji reactions to get the audience involved.
These features are a big advantage of presenting online, says Tara Furiani:
"One shift, I think, that we will miss about online presentations (when in-person becomes the ‘norm’ again) is the ability to know, in the moment, if you are affecting change with people and resonating. Reactions, re-quotes, comments, and questions are delivered to us, while we are presenting, instantaneously… training survey be damned, this is real-time feedback.
We’re going to miss that; I just know it. In real life, save for applause, there aren’t ‘reactions’ to click that appear over the speakers’ head… maybe there should be?"
Presentation Preparation: Online vs In-Person
More conferences and events are being held online, and that's likely to continue. That means going one step further to understand how to develop a presentation to give a virtual audience a great experience. Stephanie Schwab comments:
"A lot of people think that giving an online presentation means you have to show slides the whole time - and I think just the opposite. I might have some slides to backup some of my points, but I'm usually pretty fluid between sharing my screen with a slide and then turning off sharing, so that the online audience can focus on me."
Do you wonder "what is a good presentation for online audiences?" Here are some differences in presentation preparation between online and in-person presentations.
- You can't read the room. When presenting in-person, you can tell if people are engaged because they may lean forward, make eye contact or respond in some way. On a video call, you may not be able to see them properly, and they'll likely be muted to avoid background noise. To make up for this, pause regularly and ask for comments or feedback.
- You can't rely on body language. An in-person presenter can use physicality for emphasis. That's not possible in the boundaries of a small screen.
- Visual cues are essential. In-person you can gesture or point at a key part of your slides. That's harder on a small screen. So, design your slides with visual cues like arrows and circles to direct your audience to what's most important on any slide.
- Working technology is more important for virtual presentations. It's essential to ensure your mic and camera are working properly so you look professional. In contrast, you always have the option of going tech-free in an in-person presentation.
- You handle questions differently. In-person, it's pretty easy to see when someone has a question, especially in a small room. Online, that's much harder, so have someone on hand to keep track of who's raised a hand or typed a question into the chat box.
- Camera position is crucial. In-person, you may not have a camera. Even if you do, you can walk around the room to make eye contact with different people. That's not possible online, so make sure you're looking directly into the camera. That will allow you to make virtual eye contact with every participant.
Learn More About How to Prepare Your Presentation
Now you know how to prepare a good presentation, but don't stop there. Find even more useful presentation preparation tips in the following guides and tutorials:
- PresentationsThe Complete Guide to Making Great Business Presentations in 2021Laura Spencer
- PresentationsHow to Write a Professional PowerPoint Presentation (Discover the Writing Process)Brad Smith
- Microsoft PowerPointHow to Write, Format, & Give a Great Business Presentation Report 2020Sarah Joy
- Microsoft PowerPoint15+ Top Presentation Design Trends to Create Cool PowerPoint PPTs 2021Andrew Childress
Find More Presentation Templates
Are you still looking for the right presentation template? Find great templates for any type of presentation in the following roundups:
- Presentations20 Best Free Corporate PowerPoint Templates: Company PPT Presentations 2021Sharon Hurley Hall
- Microsoft PowerPoint25+ Best Premium PowerPoint PPT Templates to Download for 2022 PresentationsSharon Hurley Hall
- Presentations20 Best Free News & Newspaper PowerPoint Templates (PPT Slides for 2021)Barni Rajah
Start Your Presentation Preparation
Now, it's your turn to prepare a presentation. You've learned some key presentation steps, including the importance of developing a presentation plan as well as the importance of presentation practice. You're ready to get started.
Don't forget. You can find attractive PowerPoint presentation templates on Envato Elements. And, for one-off use, you can also choose from the presentation templates on GraphicRiver. Check out the best PowerPoint templates available today.
Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Sharon Hurley Hall. Sharon is a freelance instructor for Envato Tuts+.
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