the night before

the night beforeThe night before Christmas is an oft-quoted poem that brought me to consider what The Good Presenter should be doing the night before The Big Presentation. Reflecting on what I personally been doing the night before a big piece humbles me as it is not what I would coach others to be doing. The night before should be about maximising delivery, not changing the story or tweaking the slides.

Preparation for The Big Presentation should have started a long time before the event. The night before should not be a time that either the story, p1 or the media, p2 are significantly changed. I fully accept each of us may have done so in the past, possibly even with some value, but this mainly reflects poor preparation rather than inspired changes. In terms of best advice, the night before should be all about the delivery, p3.

The value of a presentation is the product of all three parts. Whilst late changes to p1 or p2 may appeal to a presenter, it is unlikely they will change the reception by the audience; they only see the final version. What will bring most value is polish and force of delivery. Last minute changes to p1 and p2 will only negatively influence the previously rehearsed structure and small changes are likely to inhibit and restrict rather than improve delivery. Do not make changes to story or media the night before.

The Best Presentation is given by a relaxed, confident speaker who is ready for the challenge. Relaxation comes from confidence, confidence comes from practise and preparation. This is what should be the aim of the speaker the night before The Big Presentation. It goes without saying that means a decent night’s sleep. I would strongly counsel against travelling to The Big Event on the same day as issues of travel, parking and the like will not make things better. Stay overnight, close to or in the venue and get to bed early enough to allow for sleep. This may be a challenge, depending on the “importance” of the event to the speaker. Alcohol may make the night before fun but will not aid The Big presentation.

Run through the presentation using your laptop and slide changer in the hotel room. Stand at least 3m away from the screen and deliver the whole thing, whatever happens. If there is a stumble or error, keep going and ensure completion within the time allotted. Review the whole and reflect on any fault. Practise that section two or three times in isolation and then the whole, one last time. Then shut the laptop for the last time. You are ready.

Ensure your outfit is ready for the next day. Check each part down to belt, shoes, cufflinks, whatever will be required. Unfortunately, this is the point that The Good Presenter may realise they are a less good suitcase packer and that their cognitive bandwidth may have brought the presentation but not their dress shoes. Finding out the night before is better than tomorrow morning. Turn the light out and go to bed.

If you can’t go to sleep, recite only the starting and closing lines to yourself, in the dark. Leave the rest. Do not try to run through the presentation as this will only lead to panic. If necessary, try to picture the individual slides in order. This is a good memory trick for remembering the piece but is also likely to help you sleep. Relax. Remember the audience wants you to do well. Your rehearsal has shown that you can deliver your piece within time and with the impact you seek. Remember the great presentations you have seen in the past and reflect that those presenters felt the same as you do now. This is the night before your Great Presentation.

Any other tips?

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