PowerPoint Done Right: Practice

Knowing what you want to say, and practicing saying it are two different things.?

Have you ever worked on a team presentation? One of those scenarios where multiple people need to share from their own areas of expertise and it still needs to come off as a single voice? If you have, then you know there's few things more frustrating than going after the guy that forgot to practice. He leaves the audience asleep, or worse, frustrated and checked out. And it always comes down to the same thing: practice.

That's why I love this image from Steve Jurvetson, because even the guys on stage are starting to look at other stuff (phones, email, etc).

So who am I talking about? He's the guy who spends the days before hand telling you what he's going to say. But you never hear him say it. He says things like, “Then I'll tell them about our approach” or “That's when I'll share success stories” but you never hear the stories he'll tell or the way he'll share his message. And no surprise, a lack of practice leads to all sorts of issues: he takes too long, he rambles and goes off mark, he never makes the main point, his segue to you is horrible, or he just confuses things.

So what's the right answer?

Don't just say what you're going to say, actually say it. In other words, don't talk about practice, actually practice.

  • Practice your opening, practice your segues between points or stories, practice hand-offs to others.
  • Practice the important phrases, work and rework the stories, and make sure you don't go long.
  • Practice the passion, practice the quiet retelling, practice all sorts of volume control.
  • Practice how you use your hands, and body – and practice *not* pacing back and forth.

I know, it's not an Earth-shattering tip, but it constantly amazes me that people only pretend to practice rather than actually practicing.