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Tips for Rehearsing your PowerPoint Presentation
By Ellen Finkelstein   Printer Friendly Version

Once you have finished creating your presentation, it's time to rehearse. Plan for rehearsal time so this essential is not short-changed.

Step 1: Rehearse in front of your computer.
For your first two rehearsals, sit right in front of your computer. Go into Slide Show view and practice delivering your presentation. At this stage, you're still quite dependent on looking at the slides as you talk, which is okay for now.

For your third rehearsal, you are now more fluent in your delivery. You just need to hone it so that it sounds more polished. Here's a helpful tip: Use PowerPoint's narration feature to record narration into your presentation. All you need is a small microphone attached to the back of your computer. (Most computers these days come with the microphone and a place to connect it.)

Follow these steps:

1. Choose Slide Show | Narration and click OK. PowerPoint automatically switches you to Slide Show view.

2. Start narrating the first slide. When you're done, click with the mouse to continue.

3. Continue narrating your presentation until the end.

4. PowerPoint asks if you want to save the slide timings. I suggest clicking Yes. PowerPoint returns you to your presentation in Slide Sorter view, displaying the timings.

That was easy! Now, play back the slide show to hear how it sounds. Switch to Slide Show view. Now sit back and close your eyes. (If you saved the timings, you don't have to click the mouse to move through the presentation.) Just listen to the sound of your voice. Write down a few notes. How was the tone? Did you speak too fast or slow? Were you clear? I guarantee you will find something to improve.

You're ready to work on your delivery. Continue to record narration each time until you like what you hear. Now watch with your eyes open, to see the coordination between your voice and the visuals.

Step 2: Rehearse with the equipment you will use.
After a few rehearsals, you are familiar with what you will say and shouldn't need to refer to the slides as much. Now is the time to rehearse with your projector, remote mouse, or whatever equipment you will be using. As much as possible, recreate the actual venue where you will be speaking. If you are giving an in-house presentation, you may be able to combine steps 2 and 3.

This phase of rehearsal lets you focus on getting comfortable with your equipment and speaking while looking at your audience (instead of at the slides). You should practice your opening remarks, when you will turn the lights up and down (if at all), how you will start and end the presentation (for example, opening and closing remarks; ending with a final slide or black screen), answering questions and so on. (Regarding practicing answering questions, think how carefully political candidates practice answering questions before a press conference or a debate.) These are the nuts and bolts of delivery.

A great idea is to rehearse in front of a real person. That person can pick up odd movements, ask questions, and give you feedback. If you can videotape yourself, so much the better. Just as narration lets you listen to how you sound, video lets you see how you look as you present.

Tip for ending your presentation: Don't let your audience see you return to normal or slide view in PowerPoint. If you inadvertently click the mouse on the last slide, PowerPoint returns to the view you were in prior to entering Slide Show view. Here are two options:

  • If you are sure you know which slide is last, press b on the keyboard when you are done to display a black screen. From there you can turn off your projector before leaving Slide Show view.
  • Create a slide that is clearly an ending slide. Perhaps it can say: "Questions?" or "The End." Leave that slide on until you turn off your projector.

Once you have completed step 2, you are ready for step 3.

Step 3: Rehearse on site
Unless impossible, you should practice where you will actually deliver your presentation. If you are traveling, this means getting to the room early, setting up and doing one or two run-throughs. Practice where you will stand and where your computer and projector will be placed.

Tip: Stand so that your audience sees you to the left of the screen. Their eyes can then easily move from you to the right to see what is on the screen. We are accustomed to moving from left to right because that is how we read (unless you are presenting in Hebrew or Arabic).

Now is the time to make sure you know where the outlets and light switches are, to check if your cords are long enough, and to find out where extra chairs are stored.

Once you have completed these steps, you will be well-rehearsed! The confidence you have gained from knowing your presentation well will shine through.

Finally, make sure to connect with your audience, whether a large group or one person. It's probably harder to connect with a larger group, but just as necessary. Never start your presentation with the lights out. Talk to your audience, introduce yourself, and liven up the atmosphere before starting with your prepared presentation. Again at the end, turn up the lights and reconnect. Even if you do the entire presentation with the lights up, which is common in a small presentation, be sure to look at your audience, not the screen. After all that rehearsing, you know your presentation well enough so that you should only have to glance at it occasionally. The rest of the time you should be talking to your audience. They're the ones who need your attention.

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