I have written about my first presentation to a group of contractors in 1981. While at the time I thought I did an outstanding job, I have learned a lot since. Here is my list of things I wish I had known then:

  1. Find out who will be attending the program. One time I was asked to teach a workshop. After spending days preparing the detailed workshop materials, I discovered that not one person attending the program was in a position to hire me.
  2. If you are not the only speaker, find out who is right before you and who is right after you. When I gave my first presentation to contractors in 1981, I was sandwiched between the two candidates running for governor. That meant the audience was large-a plus, but also meant they were not paying attention.
  3. Find out when you are speaking and if you have a choice pick the best time. I have been a speaker right before the golf tournament, right before the contractors were going to visit their Congressmen, right before the cocktail party when the bar was already open. More recently I was asked to do a workshop for lawyers at the Maryland State Bar meeting at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning after the Friday night cocktail party and late into the night social activities.
  4. Check out the room where you will be speaking. One year I spoke at the Arkansas State Bar and discovered there were posts in the middle of the room. I had to look around the posts to have eye contact with the audience.
  5. Make sure the technology works. One year I spoke at a NALP annual conference and I was 20 minutes into the presentation before I was able to show the first slide.
  6. Find out how the group plans to give out your handout materials. When I spoke at that Arkansas State Bar Meeting, I prepared an outstanding workbook for attendees to use and then discovered the workbook was on a jump drive.
  7. Always be prepared with Plan B. For several years I spoke to contractors right after the national association executive presented what was going on in Washington. He always went overtime, meaning I had to be prepared to deliver my one hour presentation in 30 minutes.
  8. You have 90 seconds to convince them what you will be saying is worth listening to. Don’t waste time with an introduction or a joke that no one cares about.
  9. Don’t put lots of words and bullet points on your slides. Instead have visuals and at most one headline point.. My first presentation in 1981 had no visuals because using an overhead projector or a tray of slides with the lights turned down low was not a great approach.
  10. Always end strong. Since you are starting strong and ending strong, put the boring stuff in the middle. I have never been to a concert where the performer started or ended with songs no one had heard of.
  11. Don’t hand out your slides. If you do, you will notice the audience turning ahead and some muttering “Oh boy, this guy only has 6 more slides to go.”
  12. Hold something back. You want the audience to request something you haven’t given them. If you do not hand out the slides per suggestion 11, it could be the slides.