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Presentation Preparation: The Last 24 Hours

You’ve spent the last week crafting and preparing for your presentation.  Waking up at 3am with epiphanies of how to tweak that slide, reworking that intro until the words don’t have meaning anymore, and vacillating on if you should include that joke, will they laugh?  Then the big day arrives and the delivery falls flat.  What the…!!!  Why, when you did all the preparation?   One possible culprit, your headspace stepping onto the “stage”.  The quality of your delivery can hinge upon the things you do the final 24ish hours before your presentation.

Here’s my playbook.  Try it, tweak it and see how it transforms your delivery.  (BTW: My timeline is based on a 10am delivery timeframe).

H24: No more changes, updates, or revisions to your deck and just say it.

I know, this can be so hard especially if you are a perfectionist.  However, at this point, done is better than perfect.  Moving text up or down and futzing with the images is not going to make or break your presentation.  

Instead - hit save - hook your computer up to the biggest screen you can find (bonus if it’s in the location where you will be presenting). Without using presenter view, slides only, SAY YOUR WORDS OUT LOUD.  Just get a complete run through done.  If you don’t practice saying your words out loud before the presentation, your mind is not going to find them during your actual presentation.  Thinking them is not enough.  You know what I mean, sounds great in your head, then you open your mouth and something totally different comes out.  I know it’s hard but even if you have a script, try not to read it.  Let your slides be your prompts for recall.  Reading and memorizing diminishes your authenticity unless you're Brad Pitt or Margot Robbie.

To set the right expectation, this will be your most challenging hour as you’ll want to rework what you said and there will be a huge temptation to fiddle with your deck - be strong, resist the urge.


H23: Step Away

Take a break.  Go for a walk, a bike ride, hit the gym, just move and get your blood pumping! 

H22 to H20: Chunking (Practicing your content/transitions until you’ve got them dialed in)

This 2 hour block is a lot of work but it will pay off when you take the “stage”. 

  • Practice your opening until you feel great about it.  Your opening is critical to setting the tone for how engaged the audience will be during the rest of your presentation.  If you start with low energy, your audience will have low energy.  As much as possible, your open should be compelling, a challenge to norms, intriguing and concise.

  • Practice transitioning from your opening to your first talking point, then work on your first talking point. Repeat this process throughout the entire presentation, practicing small parts and the transitions until it feels and sounds the way you want it to sound on game day.

  • Practice your closing.  Like your opening, these words are important and impactful. Your closing should incorporate a recap of the most important details and a call to action. 

H19: Break #2

Do something that does not include thinking about your presentation or working on business items. 

This time is important to your personal well being and will give your mind the time and space for  the information to sink into the deeper levels of your consciousness. I like to go to a park and take in the beauty of nature or go fly my RC airplane. 

H18:  3rd Time’s a Charm

Deliver your presentation without your presentation deck or notes or any type of visual aid.  This is the true test of your preparedness! This can be clutch when you have technical issues, allows you to interact with the audience more and helps you from using your deck as a crutch.  

H17 to H4: Anything but…

Do anything else but work on your presentation! We have all crammed for a test only to find out the stuff we recall is the material we knew previous to the “cram sesh”. Cramming for a presentation, same.  And, if you spend all this time cramming, You’ll likely show up exhausted, sick and tired of your material, and you won’t be able to bring the hype.

During this 13 hour block - focus on hydration, good nutrition, avoid alcohol, and get a full night's sleep. 

H4 to H1: Final Dress Rehearsal

If you can do your dress rehearsal in the space where you’ll be doing your presentation that is a boon.   If you can’t, then visualize!  Envision the stage, the audience, and the lead up to taking the stage. Then, deliver your presentation with the same enthusiasm, vocal inflections, pauses, etc., as how you would deliver your presentation in front of the audience. Give yourself the grace to restart certain areas if I want to make some changes to movement, gestures or the words used. 

It is paramount to be kind to yourself during this dress rehearsal as 90% of your presentation at this point is mental. 

H1 to H0: The Final Countdown

  • Meet and Greet - one of my prespeaking rituals is to meet as many people who will be in the audience when i am speaking. This calms my nerves, helps me find “friends” in the audience, and establishes me in the space because “I belong here”. 

  • T-minus 30 minutes - Go outside and get some fresh on the brain if you can.  Otherwise find a large empty space.  Shake it down… literally, put your hands up in the air, shake them all around, shake out your feet, shake your body side to side.  It is time to wake up the body and to get the blood moving, especially if you have been sitting a while. 

  • Close your eyes and envision how you will take that stage - say your opening lines out loud, in the same tone with which you will present. This is part of the reason for going outside or being in an empty space, so you can be somewhat loud. Speak the key points you are going to make during the presentation, say the transitions, these are the key soundbites of your delivery and you are familiarizing yourself with them. This exercise takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

  • T-Minus 20 minutes - I recommend going to the bathroom and washing your hands, perhaps brushing your teeth or having a mint.

  • T-Minus 15 minutes - Re-enter the room and stand at the back. As your time nears, move closer to the stage so when you are introduced, you are right there to take the stage. 

Go Time:  Take the stage with energetic enthusiasm and anchor yourself before the audience. Look at them for a moment, find some familiar faces. Smile! Deep breath…. GO! You’ve got this. You’ve practiced for this moment, now own it.


At Articulated Intelligence we can help you with every step of this process.  We’ll even tell you a bedtime story.  Reach out, we’d love to work with you.  

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