What is a checklist?
A checklist is “a type of informational aid aimed at eliminating failure”. A checklist is used to counterbalance the possible limits of human memory and attention. A checklist helps to ensure consistency, standardisation and thoroughness in carrying out a task, such as pre-flight preparations. Checklists range from the basic “to do list” to the more advanced “schedule”. Factors included in the checklist range from time and sequence to importance.
The Basic Presentation Checklist (Guide to Persuasive Presentations, Harvard Business Review, 2010) is designed to remind speakers of the necessary steps for a successful presentation. The authors claim that” following these steps will not give presenters a less hectic schedule. However, they can ensure that speakers will not miss something obvious the next time they have to talk in public”.
The 8 Steps in the checklist include:
1. Develop the elevator pitch. Summarise your message in one sentence. It should clearly state and include the benefit for the listener and the essence of your message. It should be comprehensible and straight forward. It should be bold and audacious, yet reassuring and encouraging.
2. Figure out the question you answer. Remember and remind why your talk is unique. It is not the value and wealth of your data and experience. It is also how they relate to
each participant’s background and needs. It should be motivating and inspiring for your audience: at the end of the day your presentation is about them.
3. Create the all important opening. Grab the audience attention and interest from the first second. Tease and guide them at the same time. Offer a preview of what your talk is about while exciting their interest about what will follow.
4. Craft the impactful ending. Define what you would like your audience to remember at the end of your talk, after they leave the room. It can be a call to action or an important conclusion. In any case in needs to be a unique point exclusive to your talk.
5. Put the parts together concisely. Use your elevator pitch summary to filter the content of your talk. Include those parts that are essential to your content and form a compelling whole. Be ruthless. A printed version of your talk may be the place for all extraneous information, definitely not the live presentation.
6. Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse. Practicing helps combat stage fright, nervousness, running overtime or finishing early. Practicing, especially with colleagues, helps test the effectiveness of your arguments and jokes. Practicing, especially in the room, helps the speaker familiarise himself with the acoustics and the lighting in the room as well as the position of the audience.
7. Check the technology and the location. Make certain the devices are fully charged and the correct version of the presentation loaded. Make certain you have a back up copy compatible with the equipment in the room. Make certain you have all the necessary connecting cables and that they work. Check the projection and the lighting. Check the sound system and where to stand. Decide where to position yourself and where to place your notes/device.
8. Be ready when the time comes. Familiarise yourself with the general atmosphere of the event. Check your appearance and your notes one last time. Take time to relax. Decide how much “down time” you need before you start your speech. Fight nervousness by approaching some members of the audience. Above all enjoy the moment. Your personal degree of satisfaction will reflect on the participants.
Remember that complacency is the enemy of confidence. As the saying goes “It’s better to be safe than sorry”.