How To Handle A Short-Notice Presentation?
Let’s imagine this; you get a call from your manager that you’ll need to replace a colleague as a presenter in a presentation 30 minutes prior to the meeting, you’re overwhelmed wishing you could refuse but you know well this could affect the deal your company is trying to make or could affect the cooperation with the client. This might be a stressful situation indeed, however utilizing the next minutes is essential to guarantee smooth handling of that change.
Now let’s focus on your action plan.
Contact your colleague:
Even though you might be triggered to rush preparing your PowerPoint slides or start writing down your ideas, you need to hold back and make a quick phone call with the original owner for that presentation. Simply because you need the topic background and more information about the audience.
Some of the main points you’ll need to ask about, if time allows, are:
Meeting Agenda? Presentation duration?
What is the main purpose of the meeting?
Is it the 1st meet-up with that client/entity? If yes, what were their primary needs mentioned in the arrangement phone call/email? If not and your colleague met them before then what were the key interests that they uncovered in the 1st meeting? What were their main concerns? Who is the main decision maker and who are the influencers? What is their communication style? Good listeners? Interrupters? Show makers...etc.
Were there any files that were shared with the audience prior to the meeting?
Is there a prepared presentation document to use during the meeting?
But what if you couldn't reach your colleague for any reason? What if he had an emergency?! Now, this could be frustrating! However, usually, you'll have other colleagues who are aware of the meeting details or you could get such information from your manager.
One of the additional things that you could do, is to utilize the first minutes of the meeting to get acquainted with your audience's needs and concerns by asking some open-ended questions instead of rushing to share your presentation content.
Writing down your thoughts
Utilize the remaining preparation time for the presentation by organizing your thoughts and writing your main points down on paper. This not only helps in structuring your content but also helps in strengthening your visual memory.
Preparing or reviewing supportive visual aids
Now that you’re more familiar with what you want to deliver and achieve in that presentation, you can start reviewing the original supportive visual aid (PowerPoint presentation for example), that was prepared by your colleague, and adjust it as per your thoughts flow. Adjustments do not necessarily be changes in design, but they could be changes in the ideas' order or hiding slides you won’t have time to explain.
If you’ll be creating the slides from the scratch, use 2 or 3 slides as maximum to save time and give yourself more space to adjust your content during the actual presentation as per the discussion with the audience.
I know this could sound nonsense to you, but investing the last 5 minutes in rehearsing your main points or at least your opening will help you feel more confident and minimize filler sounds, especially in the intro.