“Invited” to Speak at Work? Tomorrow? Here’s How to Ace Your Talk, Even with Little Time to Prepare
Has This Ever Happened to You?
You’re at your desk, minding your own business, when your boss walks by (or emails or Slacks you) and says, “Hey, can you do me a favor? Some people are coming in tomorrow and I need you to present our new initiative.”
The Pitfalls of Last-Minute Presentations
Deadlines can be good for concentrating the mind, but in this scenario, two things are likely to happen next:
- You’ll be up all night scrambling to create a new talk; and/or
- Your boss hands you a slide deck that someone else has prepared (perhaps badly), and you’ll be up all night figuring out how to deliver it.
In addition, you may also have to prepare for tough questions during Q&A.
So how can you manage this challenge, and ace your last-minute presentation, especially with so little time to get ready?
Review the Big Picture
Right now, the easiest thing in the world would be to dive headfirst into your content (a/k/a what you’re going to say).
But successful presentations aren’t all about content — they’re about establishing a three-way relationship between the speaker (that’s you), your audience, and what you’re going to tell them.
So here are two things to do before you jump into thinking about what you’re going to say.
1. Take a Minute to Think about the People You’ll Be Talking To
Jump start your last-minute presentation by asking yourself:
- What’s the story I’m going to tell this audience? Is it about how you’ve solved a technical problem? How your innovation will transform the market? How everyone is going to benefit? Even an “update” presentation tells a story about how well or badly a project is going.
- What do I want them to do differently as a result of my talk?
- What would motivate them to do it?
2. Now Take a Minute to Think about YOU, the Person Who’s Going to Be Speaking
- How do I want the audience to view me? Do I want to be seen as smart? Confident? Helpful? Open-minded? (For more on how to project the qualities you choose, read about your public speaking Avatar.)
- What aspects of this situation are likely to trigger anxiety or fear? Some of us feel more vulnerable around strangers, or people with more status, or better haircuts. Will your feelings about this audience be an extra challenge?
- How have I managed public speaking anxiety or fear in the past? It’s comforting to know in advance that, if nerves do strike, you have some tricks and techniques up your sleeve for managing them.