Prepare for a speech

April 1, 1999

Pharmaceutical Representative

Winning steps for a successful presentation.

You've landed an appointment to make a pitch to a customer. It's an important opportunity, and when the presentation stakes are high, you need to be at your peak.

This article offers valuable advice to help you prepare for your presentation, starting 10 days in advance.

Day 10

Incorporate crowd pleasers. Verbal "maps" guide your listeners and make your ideas more memorable. For example, you say, "We'll talk about three things today," and then you mention those three items. Research quotes, anecdotes and stories to enliven your talk.

Start rehearsing. Organize your thoughts for the ear instead of the eye. Gain a "feel" for your facts.

Tackle logistics. Arrange to have visuals created, order equipment and reserve a conference room for the day of presentation and two days before.

Vocalize. Do 20 minutes of daily vocal exercises so you're talking louder and longer. Sing in your car. Read books aloud that make it fun to change pitch, volume and pace, such as "Hansel and Gretel" or "Horton Hears a Who." Do breathing exercises.

Day 8

Get a haircut and go to the cleaners. Pick out appropriate attire, including accessories - aim for the simple and elegant. Check your clothes for tears, frays, loose or missing buttons and spots before and after the cleaners.

Day 6

Hydrate. Drink eight to 10 glasses of water each day to help you look, feel and sound your best. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Better yet, avoid them.

Day 2

Stage a dress rehearsal. Pretend it's the real thing. You've reserved the conference room, so get comfortable with your surroundings and eliminate any problems that could undermine your success. Use a video camera to assure objective feedback. Confirm logistical arrangements.

Rest. Get eight hours of sleep. You'll look and feel more like a winner when it really counts.

Day 1

Preserve your voice. Do your vocal exercises, but keep all other utterances - especially loud ones - to a minimum.

The big day

Squash surprises. Check the room early. Count the chairs, flip on the machines, etc. Carry phone numbers of anyone you may need to call today, such as catering, maintenance or audiovisual professionals.

Stay serene. Avoid anything with caffeine - coffee, soda, chocolate and medications - and don't drink excessive fluids (for obvious reasons).

Warm up. To gently prepare your voice, take five deep breaths from the belly. Then, hum a little. Take a short, brisk walk. Swing your arms to loosen your muscles; they'll move more freely when you gesture.

Think winning thoughts. Welcome the inevitable rush of energy when you're introduced. It's a sign that you've entered the zone you've been working toward - the zone of peak performance. PR