Having spent all that time preparing the talk itself, there are still a few things you can do at the last minute which will help ensure a successful presentation. Or, if you are the nervous type, help fill time . . .

  1. As you pack your travel bags, think carefully about what you plan to wear for the big day - and be sure to bring all the component parts for that outfit! As soon as you arrive at the hotel, take a few minutes to freshen up and set out/hang up/iron your outfit. If you've forgotten something, contact the hotel's concierge service - and remember to tip generously! Remember the adage "There is no second chance for a first impression!"
  2. Consider preparing your own introduction. That way you can tailor the details for your audience and setting - and avoid a long-winded and rambling introduction that puts your audience to sleep before you even begin speaking! A brief and focused introduction also gives you a few more moments of speaking time. Print the introduction iusing a large font and send it to your host ahead of time. Print a copy and bring that along with you, too. Most people doing the introduction will appreciate for foresight, since that task often is viewed with trepidation. (My thanks to Dr. Edward Cohen for this tip!)
  3. Before the day begins, or last thing the night before, run through your talk once more. Use a mirror or visualize standing in front of an audience as you practice. If you've brought a slide carousel with you (a good idea), check their arrangement. You probably won't have time to do this later. Remember to seat the locking ring properly!
  4. If possible, take a tour the room you'll use for the presentation early in the day. Look for potential problems with line of sight due to furniture, dark spots due to dead overhead lights, intruding sound from ventilation systems or neighboring rooms - these all can be fixed with a bit of prior warning and a polite request.
  5. If you need specialized equipment, make sure it is available ahead of time - don't spring that information on your host at the last minute.
  6. Check again to see that your slides are oriented properly in the carousel. Lock that ring!
  7. Make sure the focus switch works, and determine who will be controlling the slide advance. Do the slide advance, reverse, and focus features all work?
  8. It's your show, so ask for help with the equipment if you need it; it's better to ask for help then fumble around during the presentation. Determine who will be controlling equipment for you.
  9. Increasing the technology associated with you presentation increased risks. You may want to check out the Meeting Tomorrow website for tips on technology. Here are a few potential problems you may want to consider:
  10. Irrespective of what your presentation medium might be, letting your presentation slides, disk, CD, etc. out of your sight before the presentation begins can lead to disaster.
  11. If the room is large, or your voice small, use a microphone. Try it out before the audience arrives (blowing into the mike or counting '1-2-3' they have arrived is tacky, so don't do it).
  12. Check to see that accessories are present; chalk, eraser, markers, and especially a pointer. If it is a laser pointer, does it have fresh batteries loaded? Keep in mind that green wavelength lasers DEVOUR batteries!
  13. Avoid standing behind a lectern or desk during the presentation. Stand to one side of the projection screen or blackboard, and closer to the audience if possible.
  14. Moderate movement and hand gestures are OK, but avoid pacing and flapping.
  15. Don't be afraid to insist on a few minutes to yourself prior to the talk; 15 to 30 minutes is standard. If you have an itinerary, check to see that you've had time allotted for preparation. If you are running behind, see if someone is willing to meet with you after the talk, then use that time to prepare instead. Use this time to double-check your materials, and your introductory and summary statements. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by audience members coming up to chat.
  16. Don't wait until the very last minute to make that run to the bathroom, and remember to check carefully your appearance - including zippers, buttons and other closures - before you reappear!

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Jeff Radel