The Eleventh Hour

After defining the parameters, developing a script, and preparing the delivery, the time will finally come to give the presentation. There are several important things to think of in the hours before this moment arrives. To cover any last-minute problems, you should redefine the parameters, check yourself, double-check your materials, and arrive early.

Revisit the Presentation Parameters. As mentioned earlier, some of the parameters can be determined prior to the presentation; others will change slightly by the day of the presentation. It is important to take another look at the parameters to make sure that none of the changes will dramatically affect your presentation. Review the parameters and address any concerns or problems. Have there been any changes in the program or agenda? Has your presentation been moved in the program? Will someone be introducing you? Who is that person, and does he or she need anything from you prior to your introduction? Will someone be asking audience members to turn off their cell phones and pagers? You should request this if possible.

Another parameter that often changes the day of the presentation is the size of the audience, which will have a lot to do with how you choose to address the formality and style of your presentation. For small groups of 5 to 10, the presentation will often be informal. You can remain seated and work to develop a more personal relationship with your audience members. For an audience containing between 10 and 30 individuals, it is still possible to develop relationships, but the style will probably be more formal. With an audience of this size, visual presentation aids become useful. When the audi ence size is closer to 100, good presentation aids will become even more useful. An audience of this size will increase formality further and make it more difficult to develop personal relationships. When the audience size surpasses 100, your presentation will be more of a performance. It is best to use a microphone and try to exaggerate facial gestures and arm movements.

Changes and difficulties at the location of your presentation can be a real headache. Give yourself at least a couple of hours before the presentation to double-check the audio-video resources available at the location. Are they working? Are you still able to connect your laptop computer to the audio-video system? Do you need to load your presentation program onto an on-site computer? Do all of your computer-based audiovisuals run smoothly with the projector? Will you be using a remote to advance your slides? Who will help you with the audiovideo equipment if there are any problems? In addition, find out exactly where you will be presenting in the room. Where should you be prior to your presentation? Will a glass of water be available? Where are the restrooms?

Speaker's Podium and Its Use. A podium has always been a central fixture of lecture halls and auditoriums. For the most part, if there is a podium in the room a presenter will often be drawn to it like a magnet. This is not always for the best. Although a podium can provide a sense of authority and a convenient place to rest one's water glass, it can also serve as a barrier and hinder one's efforts to connect with an audience. If a podium is present and there is a convener for the meeting, ask where presenters are expected to deliver their presentations. If the choice is up to you, think about the size and nature of your audience. With a smaller, less formal group, step away from the podium so that you can develop personal and individual relationships with your audience members. With a larger, more formal audience, a podium can serve as a means to minimize stage fright and help the audience focus on the presenter.

Speaking Attire. What are you going to wear for your presentation? With all the thought you have put into preparing what you will say and how you will say it, it is possible that this item has been sidelined until the last minute. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your choice of attire should not detract from the message you are delivering. Dressing conservatively and neatly will convey the professionalism of your presentation. In the minutes before your presentation make sure to double-check your appearance. And did you remember to turn off your cell phone and pager? In general when planning on what to wear for your presentation, consider these questions and the following list of do's and don'ts from the Executive Communications Group at http://ecglink.com.

Clothing "Do's"

✓ Always look professional.

✓ Dress for the audience, the circumstance, the corporate culture, and yourself.

✓ Make sure your clothes are pressed.

✓ Keep jackets buttoned (formal).

✓ Err on the side of conservative.

✓ Keep your hair neat and trimmed.

✓ For women: simple manicure, conservative makeup.

✓ Ties should be conservative and reach the middle of your belt buckle.

✓ A traditional starched business shirt, preferably white cotton with a suit.

✓ Shirts with a simple collar and cuffs.

✓ A formal but simple watch.

✓ Hair, usually parted to one side, not reaching the top of your shirt collar.

✓ Over-the-calf socks for men; hosiery should be skin color or darker for women.

Clothing "Don'ts"

✓ Wear clothes that talk louder than you do.

✓ Undo multiple buttons on your shirt or blouse.

✓ Wear clothing that no longer fits.

✓ Wear wrinkled clothing.

✓ Use fabrics that have a noticeable sheen.

✓ Let hair fall in your face or obscure your eyebrows.

✓ Have a hair style that requires continual adjustment.

✓ Use a fragrance that smells from a distance.

✓ Wear an ID badge when you're presenting.

✓ Sport untrimmed facial hair (in some organizations, any facial hair can be career-inhibiting).

✓ Wear shiny tie pins or clips or big belt buckles.

✓ Wear visible jewelry (other than a watch and/or a single simple ring).

✓ Wear distracting lapel pins for men, or dangles, bangles, or anything noisy for women.

✓ Leave top shirt button open with a tie.

✓ Wear short-sleeved dress shirts.

✓ Wear loafers with a suit for men, or open-toe or ultrahigh-heel shoes for women.

Other Appearance Considerations. Your audience should be able to see your eyes clearly and easily. If you wear glasses, consider an antiglare coating for the lenses, which makes it easier to see your eyes. Avoid any tint (unless medically necessary) and avoid heavy frames that can obscure your eyes. Any perfume, cologne, or perfumed grooming product should not be noticeable at normal business proximity. This means that you can exit the elevator and no one entering should be able to guess that you were there. Also, if you will be in a health care setting, you should not wear anything scented because colognes can aggravate certain medical conditions and allergies.

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