Macy McNeely

how to prepare for a presentation

10 Ways To Prepare For A Presentation

You are presenting something. The moment you walk into a room, you are communicating a message. Through your appearance, your body language, your tone of voice, your facial expressions and more. Whether you’re sharing with 1,000 people on stage, to a group of 10, in a conversation with your boss or a tough phone call, having a system and rehearsing will give you roaring confidence.

Step 1: When you know, start the process. Do some research.

  • When you know of the conversation / presentation date – START THE PROCESS. It takes a couple of days to think about what you want to talk about or how you want to talk about the topic creatively. As you are driving, exercising, getting ready, allow your brain to think about the big picture. You are most creative when you’re in a relaxed state. Think baths, massages, as you’re falling asleep, going on a walk, etc.
  • Do your research. I am speaking at a conference on April 27th called “You’re A Dream, Baby.” The big picture is ‘radical self-acceptance.’ The first thing I did was go to my Instagram and ask my followers: “What keeps you from accepting yourself?” Your research might be asking the people in your inner circle some questions or looking up articles or statistics.

Step 2: Begin with the end in mind.

  • Now that you have an idea of the direction you want to go, start outlining your talk with the ending first. From my research on Instagram, there were a lot of recurring answers. A reason why people struggle with self-acceptance is because of some sort of trauma they’ve experienced. EVERYONE has some sort of trauma. Everyone. It’s actually a blessing because that’s what helps define what you stand for and it defines your message. “Helping people discover their message.” BOOM. That’s my ending and my starting place.

Step 3: Outline your points WITH a story to each point.

  • Now, back up from your ending. What are some points that align with the ending? In my opinion, these are the 3 things that help people define their message:

                1. Seeing their trauma as a blessing.

                2. Finding the music in their heart.

                3. Defining and evangelizing their message.

  • With each point, have a story. People learn and remember things from stories. They’re crucial. This doesn’t necessarily happen on the spot. Maybe you need a few days to think about stories. Don’t just tell stories of yourself. Jesus was the greatest communicator of all and He used parables and stories.

Step 4: Write without thinking.

  • Write under each point without thinking. Let it flow. Don’t worry about typos or grammar or run on sentences. Know when you write the best. For me? I go to Starbucks early in the morning, I sit in the back corner, I order a blonde roast with powdered cinnamon and put on thunderstorm sounds as loud as possible and I start typing. 
  • Stick with the same routine if you can. 

Step 5: Read aloud by yourself, then to others.

  • When you write like this, you’ll have to edit a lot. I started with 5 points in this particular talk. I only have 15 minutes to speak, so I had to cut it WAY back. I had a lot of the same thoughts repeated throughout, so I cleaned up the content, grammar, and stories.
  • The thing about stories is you can go into A LOT of detail, or just brush the surface. This can help fill the time or cut back the time.
  • After I read it to myself, I read it out loud to my mom, dad and husband. They always have great advice. Have your core people you read to and take the feedback like a champ.

Step 6: Create slides if needed.

  • Slides are not a crutch, they enhance the speech.
  • I use slides for pictures that go along with the stories or important words or phrases I want people to read as I speak for impact.
  • When you’re in between slides during the talk, make sure you have a blank one so it isn’t distracting.

Step 7: Spend 20 minutes a day learning the material.

  • Start learning it. A little bit at a time. If I spend 20 minutes a day, I can get it down in about 3-4 days. When you get on stage or in front of people, it’s scary. You go into autopilot mode. When you know your material like the back of your hand, your autopilot will be your speech.

Step 8: REHEARSE. Get in front of the mirror and practice everything else.

  • Cambrie just had her 2nd birthday party. Leading up to her birthday, we talked about how there would be presents, her favorite people, ice cream and cake! We mentioned that we would sing “Happy Birthday” to her, but she’s 2. She didn’t know what that meant. A few days before, we decided to ‘practice’ singing “Happy Birthday” to Cambrie. We started singing and she just turned around and walked away. She didn’t understand that you stand there and allow people to sing to you before you blow out a candle. Of course she didn’t know that – why should she know that!? Immediately, we said: WE NEED TO REHEARSE THIS. So, we did just that. We sang a couple of times as she sat there and watched us sing to her. On the day of her party when it was time to sing, guess what she did? She stood there while we all sang! Because we REHEARSED. Repetition is king.
  • Do it in front of the mirror and watch if you pace, watch your facial expressions, see when you need to pause, practice using your props and your slides.

Step 9: Practice in front of people.

  • Practicing in front of the mirror is not the same as practicing in front of people. It’s easy to get distracted by their facial expressions or when making eye contact with them.
  • Most of you know my love of Toastmasters. I try to do this at least 1 week before the presentation. If you can’t go to Toastmasters, do it in front of anyone that will sit with you. Yes, it’s weird. Do it anyway. You’ll thank me later.

Step 10: Care about your appearance.

  • Your loudest form of communication is your appearance and body language. Your appearance typically is an indication of your lifestyle. It gets people’s attention and gives them a reason to listen to what you have to say.
  • You don’t need to look a certain way, but you do need to look pulled together.
  • When you’re healthy, you are going to have more energy and more confidence. Think about eating healthy and exercising as if you’re ‘training for life.’
  • Put effort in your hair, makeup, and outfit. I have a hair and makeup tutorial on my IGTV (@macymceely) if you need some guidance.

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