How to prepare for a presentation

I often observe presenters making a pig’s breakfast of the start of a speech. They appear not be in the mood or zoned in to their own presentation. Nerves play part but it is usually when people try to present without any preparation. The energy is not there, there is a lack of conviction and credibility. And the audience makes up their mind in an instant.

Here are some tips that I learnt at drama school in Oxford. Stage actors prepare themselves so that when they step up on stage they can reach out to you with their voice. Follow these four steps to preparing yourself.

1. Stretch Just like the at the gym you start with stretching and for a presentation you need to free up the breathing apparatus: your diaphragm, lungs, ribcage. Stand upright and comfortable and stretch your arms as high as you can. Let them fall and then shake out your hands. Circulate your head left to right (carefully).

2. Breath Our voices don’t work without breathing and it is surprising how many people forget this when giving a speech. Breathe in deeply through the nose and hold for two seconds and exhale through the mouth. This is not a competition to see how long you can hold your breath – just let it out. Try this at least 7 to 10 times and you will feel relaxed. You might feel yourself yawning. This is a good thing – your body is taking in oxygen.

3. Warm up the voice Take in a breath and let out a “hum.” At your own pitch, loud or quiet – it doesn’t matter at this stage. Do this several times. Take in a breath and then let out an  “Ahhh” – it’s an ‘hum’ with your mouth open. Repeat and but louder. You have to lose your inhibitions and reach out with your voice.

4. Enunciate vowel sounds This sounds rather medical but many presenters do not use the range of sounds that the voice box it able to make. Good clear enunciation requires you to open your mouth wide and stretch the muscles. This is why actors end up with wrinkles.

Try these vowel sounds (they are called the perfect vowels)

  • “A” – as ‘Cap’
  • “I” as in ‘bit’
  • “E” as in ‘egg’
  • “O” as in ‘hot’
  • “U” as in ‘who’

Feel your mouth stretch as you open to get these sounds out. These are only five of the over 40 vowels sounds that we have in English – but it ‘s a start.

Perform all of these stages in your hotel room before that big speech. If you hear strange sounds from the room next door it may well be the CEO of ‘Amalgamated Durables’ preparing for their keynote speech.

Next steps – lose your inhibitions.

You can practise all of the above (and lots more) with your work colleagues. After all, public speaking is – public. We train staff teams from the public sector, private companies, associations, NGOs and think-tanks. They actually enjoy the experience – it is good for team building, message development and confidence.

Contact us and let us help you reach out to your audiences.

Email: or +32 (2) 880 36744 for a quote.