Models are especially useful for giving you an overview of a process, procedure or way of thinking. Then, once you’ve used the model repeatedly and encoded it into your long-term memory, the process described by the model becomes automatic, and then you don’t have to consciously think about it – you just use it.
Chapter 4 in the book introduces you to what I call the “Presentation Process” model*, which consists of four steps:
- Presentation (Actually delivering the presentation)
A lot of presenters perform Steps 1 and 3, but skip steps 2 and 4, which are crucial for great presentations and for skill development. In Step 1, you do your research, write your report, identify your key points, select your spoken remarks, prepare your storyboards and your slides. The activities in Step 1 often require extensive time and effort (as they should).
Step 2 (Practice!!)–well, let’s just say it’s evident that a lot of presenters skip this step. Allowing adequate time to practice helps you to really hone your message, edit out any extraneous material, ensure that you stay within time limits, and can help reduce your anxiety. In many cases, after practice, you’ll cycle back to Step 1 to edit your words, refine your pictures, or move text from slides to your handouts. To paraphrase the shampoo bottle: “Prepare. Practice. Repeat.”
Step 3 is the actual delivery of the presentation. If you’re properly prepared and have practiced enough, this step should go smoothly and you’ll have your moment of glory at the podium. But once you step off the stage, it’s time to move to Step 4 – Review.
Once we finish a presentation we often breathe a sigh of relief and never think about it again. But to really understand if you’ve been effective as a presenter requires some review, both from yourself and from your audience. Below are a few suggestions to help you with your own review process:
If the conference you’re at has an evaluation form for audience members to rate presentations, be sure to get those data when they become available. Evaluations help answer the question: “Did I share my information effectively with the audience?” If there is not an evaluation system in place, why not have your own forms for the audience to complete? There is a great set of evaluation questions in the book Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes by Andy Goodman. It used to be available in print, but now it’s available as a PDF from his website. (Read this book, people. It’s fantastic.)
If you recorded yourself (or were recorded), listen to the audio or view the video. Did you do well? Did you have any distracting gestures or did you stumble over your words? What do you see on the video or hear on the audio that you will change the next time you present?
Spend a few minutes thinking about what parts of your presentation went well and which ones didn’t seem to engage the audience. Do you need to find a better example to illustrate your point? Are the graphics enhancing your message or detracting from it? Write your thoughts down somewhere. This may seem like a chore, but it’s worth the time and effort. I still do it after my own presentations. Conscious self-reflection will help you to identify your weak points and strengthen them, and to enhance the strengths you already have.
So there you have it, the “Presentation Process” model, according to me, at least. Try it and see if it works for you. Work with it consciously first, then after a while you’ll find it’s become automatic for you, and will lead you to better presentations.
*If you want to see a model-of-the-model, check out figure 4.1 of the book (it’s on p. 48).