By Meredith Parker, account associate
Though one of my favorite college experiences was giving campus tours to prospective students, I remember waiting to be introduced to the tour group before my first tour, sweat rolling down my back, my hands shaking and my heart ricocheting around my chest like a pinball. I was terrified of forgetting the myriad facts I had been practicing or staring at a stony faced and silent group that didn’t react to my jokes. My tour ended up going smoothly, but after the fear I had experienced, I committed myself to developing a foolproof presentation strategy.
Whether you are developing an elevator speech about your association, practicing to make a great first impression with prospective members, or onboarding new committee members, a little bit of preparation goes a long way.
Below, you can find the strategy I created as an Admissions Ambassador to give engaging, informative tours. I continue to use this strategy in my association work to give high quality presentations.
I was recently invited to speak for a class at UNC-CH in order to explain how a specific course in my department gave me the tools to succeed in my profession. I’ll walk you through my preparation for this talk step-by-step below.
- Take 30 minutes to plan out your talk: The night before a presentation, I sit down and follow the below steps to plan what I am going to say. In association work our schedules can fill up quickly. Set an appointment in your calendar to block off the time to plan your talk.
- Introduce yourself with a connection point: Give basic information about yourself: name, job position, a brief description of your work and your organization. Then, think about the composition of your audience, your message, and how you can connect with them at the beginning of your talk to capture their interest. To do this, identify something about yourself that will help them relate to you or your association.
For my presentation at UNC-CH, I gave my name, my job description and briefly detailed my association. Then, as a recent graduate talking to college seniors at my alma mater, I knew that I should make a joke about being a millennial in the work force, “adulting,” and/or being a “real adult” to get a chuckle from the audience and let them know that I understood where they were coming from. An adult could have related to the audience by mentioning their own experience at that age or perhaps talking briefly about children or other family members in college.
- Identify the BIG IDEA: Write down the overarching point of your talk: if everyone in the attendance remembers only one thing from your talk, what do you want it to be?
UNC’s Public Policy Capstone class, which I took during my time as an undergraduate, provided me with skills that prepared me for my current job.
- Identify key points: Explain the BIG IDEA by supplying 1-3 supporting points.
I learned how to: (1) work effectively in a team and with real-world clients, (2) develop a work plan and utilize project management software, and (3) write succinct, professional reports
- Explain key points: Once you have identified the key points, add information explaining how each of these points relates to each other and the big idea of your presentation.
In my current job, I work with a team of people of varying ages and professional and educational backgrounds who are at different points in their careers. In addition, I utilize the same project management software that we used in the course and, as the manager of several different program areas in my association, create work plans regularly. Finally, I often have to write reports to obtain Board approval for ideas that I would like to implement in my association. Thus, the skills that I developed in my Capstone course directly relate to my daily work.
- Illustrate one or more key points with a short, relatable story: This gives the audience an anchor to remember the information that you’re trying to impart.
In my Capstone class, I wrote a final report detailing our proposal for continuity of our project. We had a limit of three pages. Right now, I’m working on a report for our Board of Directors recommending how to allocate scholarship funds. I am also limiting it to three pages because Board members are volunteers; we need to respect their time by providing all of the relevant information in a succinct format. I think that this class, and the UNC Public Policy department, prepared me for this skill by the short reports we wrote for projects.
- Practice: You want the presentation to flow naturally; as such, you should run through the entire presentation at least three times. (I practiced my presentation the night before, the next morning, and in the car on the way to Chapeil Hill.) Also, ask a colleague to be your practice audience. If possible, ask one person who is familiar with the idea you’re presenting and one person who is outside of your group. The different perspectives will help you locate any points that need clarifying. Planning out how you are going to deliver each point will give you a strong foundation for your presentation and assist you in overcoming nerves when you are standing in front of the crowd.
What do you think about this advice? How do you prepare for presentations? Please feel free to leave your comments below.