Smart planning will help you really connect with your audience

planning Feb 08, 2021
Don't skimp on the planning process

‘I’m afraid my internet will go down… I’m afraid I’ll push the wrong button… I’m afraid my slides won’t work.’

These are just a few of my clients’ fears when they have to make a virtual presentation. They are legitimate fears. Most of us have them.

So we focus more on the technology than the delivery of the presentation. It should definitely be the other way around. How do we get back to making the content the boss and the technology the servant?

Here’s one solution: don’t rush to write you words or design your slide deck. Slow down. Plan. The more time you spend planning, the more ingrained the content will be in your head. You will know how your information flows, so there’s less chance of forgetting any of it.

I tell my clients to resist the temptation to start by building their slide deck. Instead, I suggest planning with pen and paper. That simple act stimulates your creative right brain. When I say ‘planning’ I mean jotting down ideas, phrases, and critical points - not writing full sentences. Don't get sucked into writing the whole speech at this point.

Let’s re-cap the important elements of your plan:

  1. Controlling idea. This is the main premise of your talk. Use this to guide your whole presentation. It’s that one BIG take-away the audience will get from listening to you.
  2. A great hook, or opening, that grabs the audience immediately.
  3. WIIFM - What’s In It For Me? That’s the question every audience member is asking of you. Give them a short explanation of where you’re taking them.
  4. Context. Make sure you give the audience any critical need-to-know information that will help them understand what follows.
  5. Content. Develop  2, 3 or 4 subject areas. This is the meat of the presentation.
  6. Conclusion. Wrap it all up so the audience is in no doubt about your message and your call to action.

Once you’ve planned your presentation, use my TalkitOut Technique to write your presentation. TalkitOut will release your authentic voice so you sound natural and conversational. And TalkitOut helps you memorize your content. As you build your presentation by speaking aloud the content, you are remembering and rehearsing. You can learn about TalkitOut in my Presentations Masterclass eBook.

If you’re using slides, extract them from your written presentation now. Only build your deck after you’ve planned and written out your presentation.

Now you’re ready to tackle the technology:

Get a simple program you’re comfortable with - Zoom, Skype, MicroSoft Teams, Google Meet etc. Or make sure you’re familiar with the one you’ve been asked to use. Figure out how to use your slide with the apps.

Make sure:

  • You have a good microphone (most laptops have good ones these days. If in doubt, buy an external mic).
  • You’re well lit, either by daylight from a window or by lights.
  • You have secure internet. It’s better to plug into a modem rather that rely on WIFI.
  • Your background is not distracting.
  • You have good camera framing. It should frame your head and shoulders, not the ceiling. Your eyes should look straight ahead, not down. 

Find some colleagues and do a dress rehearsal. Rehearse your presentation with your slides. And try delivering your presentation standing up. You'll be surprised by the extra energy it gives you.

The more time you spend planning, the more confident you will be and the easier it will be to truly connect with your audience. It will help you focus on the one thing the audience has come to hear… your message.