Student writing on board in front of class

—Holly, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

I have sat through my share of boring, substance-lacking lectures and often wondered, “Did this person think about their audience at all?” Avoid being that presenter by going through the following checklist of questions. These will prepare you to dazzle your audience the next time you’re asked to present.

  • What does your audience want to hear? Knowing what your audience expects is step one in preparing for a presentation. Think about who the audience is, what they already know about the topic, and what will resonate with them. Tap into any shared experiences you may have with them to deliver your content in a way that will grab their attention.
  • What do you have to say that’s important and unique? Focusing on your important overall point and how your perspective makes the point more compelling will help you drive home your presentation. You never want your audience to say, “So what?” Instead, you want them to understand why what you have to say is worth their time.
  • What are you going to use to illustrate your points? For example, will you use data, research, or personal stories to get your message across? Will you appeal to their sense of logic, their emotion, or both? Determine beforehand what you want to use and what you hope to accomplish to make your overall point clear.
  • What visual aids can you use to make your presentation memorable? If you can use visual aids to enliven your presentation, think about what will have the biggest impact. Many people use slide presentations because they’re the standard and they allow large audiences to see visual reminders throughout the talk. But that’s not the only way—you may have an object to show while telling a story or you may use your own body to emphasize a point. If you do use slides, remember that less is more. Explain your points verbally and use the slides for images or key words or phrases rather than to write out long bullet points.

Most important of all? Practice your presentation out loud, as many times as you can (preferably in front of an audience or a mirror) until you feel confident in your ability to deliver a dynamite talk.