It’s the night before your big talk. You’ve crafted your presentation, practiced it, and are ready to deliver it at tomorrow’s event. You’re nerves are jangling a bit, for better or worse, and the bulk of the heavy lifting is done – the only thing left to do is give the talk itself.
Or is it?
There are a few things you can do the night before your presentation to help boost your success. You want to make the best use of your valuable brain and energy on presentation day, so follow these night-before prep steps to make sure you’re on top of your game.
1. Check (and double check) that your technology is working properly.
Presentation time is not the time to discover that your slide deck is out of order, or your carefully created animations aren’t working, or that the batteries on your remote presenter have run out. Go through your presentation slides in their entirety to do a final check that they’re working and sequenced the way you want them. Make sure your remote presenter has batteries, and that they are fully charged. If you need to bring your own laptop, plug that sucker in and make sure its battery is fully charged. You can’t control the tech provided by the venue, but you can always make sure that your own tech is in working order. Once you’ve done this, you can set your mind at ease and not worry about dead batteries or slideshow mishaps.
2. Create and pack multiple back-ups of your material.
Think like a Boy Scout and be prepared. I always bring multiple back-ups for my content, and so should you. One of my back-ups is my presentation outline or speaker notes. This is the back-up for my brain. Not only do notes give you something with which to prime your brain before getting up to speak, they can also help you regain your footing if there is a major mishap that throws you off your game, like a projector or slide deck not functioning or an unexpected venue change.
Tech and slide backups are a must. Bring not one but several different versions of your slide deck, if you’re using one. I always bring a version of my slides on a flash drive and have an additional copy saved in Google Drive and in my email. Even if the venue is providing a laptop, I bring my own in case something goes wrong with their’s. I’ve learned to also supply my own HDMI cables so that if the venue doesn’t have the correct attachment cable for the laptop and projector, I’m still able to plug my laptop in (this can be a problem when venues are using old projectors with different ports than those used by up-to-date laptops).
I always bring my own remote presenter. Even if the venue has one, I prefer to bring my own. Mine is nicer, I’m comfortable handling it, and I don’t have to worry about the venue’s remote running out of batteries or having a missing USB dongle.
For every example above, I’ve had a speaking gig where I either needed to use my backup or wished to god I had brought one. Backups are your saving grace.
Preparing for a talk, speech, or presentation? Click here to download The Speaker’s Ultimate Day-Before Checklist!
3. Verify and pack your promotional materials, handouts, and feedback forms.
In the rush that invariably ensues when leaving the house (or office) for your presentation, it’s easy to forget that stack of info sheets, or handouts, or feedback forms. Believe me, I’ve done it. These papers are important – they act as business cards, mailing list sign-up documents, and value-add materials. They help your audience remember what you said, who you are, and how to get a hold of you in the future. They are critical for growing your email and contacts list. They can even help you land other gigs. Don’t leave them behind.
4. Verify all venue and contact information.
Do you know your presentation time, location, room number, and cell phone contact info for the organizer? Do you know how to get to the venue and how long it will take you to get there? Look for the location and estimate commute time on Google Maps.* Write everything down on a cheat sheet, and pack that sucker in your bag now. These are the kinds of details that you can forget when scrambling to find your presentation room while three-quarters of your brain is occupied with fretting about the talk itself.
And don’t forget the organizer’s or on-site person’s emergency contact number. You’ll want to be able to get a hold of them if you get stuck in traffic, or run over by a bike courier, or hopelessly lost in a labyrinthine conference venue.
5. Run through your presentation in its entirety, one more time, with no (or limited) notes.
Repetition and practice are the unsung heroes of public speaking. Now I know you’ve been a good, diligent speaker and have been practicing your presentation (you have been practicing, yes?), but I firmly believe that one more beginning-to-end run-through with no stopping and no notes helps get your brain in gear. I like doing this in the shower so that I have no choice except to do it notes free. Don’t worry about doing the run-thorough perfectly – just do it.
6. Go to bed at a reasonable time and get a solid night’s sleep.
The night before your talk is not the time to stay up late having a few too many drinks with your buddies or conference organizers or delegates. It isn’t the time to indulge in binge-watching old episodes of Game of Thrones. It is definitely NOT the time to frantically edit your slide presentation or re-write your introduction (I’ve made this mistake – it’s awful). Go to bed on time or early. There is no other activity that will benefit your performance as much as a good night’s sleep.
Want a thorough list of everything you might possibly need to prep and check before your presentation? I’ve got you covered – click here to download The Speaker’s Ultimate Day-Before Checklist! It has everything you see in this post and more so you can be certain you’ve crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’ before you leave for your talk.
What do you usually do the night before a presentation or important event? Do you have any interesting rituals you like to follow? Pop them in the comments below or tweet them out to @lsergy!
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