A year ago today (!), I was getting ready for attending and presenting at the American Evaluation Association (AEA) annual meeting in DC – and I had only 3 days to develop my presentation and practice it.
I know what you’re thinking – Did she really wait til the last minute for something so important?
Well…I hadn’t planned it that way. But, by the time I gave my AEA presentation 3 days later at the 8 am Thursday morning session, I was more than ready to describe our evaluation research.
So how did this all happen?
I was late because life intervened – at full force.
After the AEA acceptances in June (and all 3 of our submissions were accepted – yahoo!), I put my individual presentation at the top of my To-Do list each week. July and August were consumed with finishing up a 3-year behavioral RCT and a 5-year performance evaluation research project. September found me responding to 4 different 5-day turnaround evaluation RFPs – and winning one of those – and helping another presenter with her two AEA presentations. We started up the new evaluation immediately after winning it in late September. And then in October, on top of everything else, the floor where my office was moved to a temporary location while our floor was undergoing an 8-week remodeling.
But I was determined to finally put together a Potent Presentation (http://p2i.eval.org/) after 2 years of learning from Susan Kistler and Stephanie Evergreen.
So, on Monday morning, October 14th, I downloaded several key pieces from the p2i website. I opened up the Presentation Preparation Checklist and saw that I should have started 3 months ago!
3 months to prepare!
Well, I had 3 days and, at that point, I decided that doing something even marginally POTENT would be much better than my usual presentation format. (You know the one we all grew up with: bullets and text and a few charts and graphs). I used the checklist day by day to make sure I covered everything possible.
But back to Monday morning…I reviewed several key p2i tools and then set to work on the 1-page Messaging Model. It really helped me focus on my key messages. That afternoon I started reorganizing my slides using the bare-bones presentation content I had put together over the weekend – and began ditching unnecessary slides (the usually-longer-than-needed background information about the research).
By mid-afternoon on Monday, I started looking for relevant graphics to convey my messages on each slide.
On Tuesday morning (2 days to my AEA presentation), I took a fresh look at the presentation. I cut out more slides, made sure the font was large and legible, and finalized the graphics for each slide, using p2i guidelines such as bleeding photos to the edge, using circles/lines to point the audience to a key point, and lightening dark photos.
On Tuesday afternoon, I practiced several times.
On the day before (Wednesday morning), I reduced the presentation even more and shared it with my evaluation team colleagues. I spent the rest of the day in more practice, this time in front of a few colleagues. I finalized the presentation and put it into onto 2 different thumb drives (in case one suddenly developed a read-write fault, of course!).
So, you can see why I arrived at AEA on early Thursday morning feeling prepared. And I presented pretty potently, if I do say so myself, even with only 3 days to prepare. (See for yourself in the example below. Before I started, 2 of these 4 slides, for example, were just text on a slide and the other 2 were much denser text.)
Much more potent slides
And I know that it was pretty potent because, while attendance at that early-morning session was small, the audience all stayed. And a subsequent presenter mentioned that she didn’t have any graphics or charts in her slides. And primarily because I felt so different delivering the information potently, knowing that my messaging had been correctly designed and that my slides were much more relevant and informative for the audience.
I don’t advocate being so very late even though it did happen to me last year. But remember, it’s never too late to make your presentation POTENT no matter how close it is to your presentation time.
So try it – even for this year’s AEA (which unfortunately I’ll be missing). You still have a couple days left!