Presentation Dress Rehearsal

By Kimberly McCall

The 4Ps of developing a powerful and persuasive presentation are: plan, prepare, practice and present, according to Tom Phillips, president of Sales University (, a sales-performance consultancy based in Round Hill, VA. Phillips says a crucial planning component is a presentation dress rehearsal to work out any kinks in the message or technology support. He likens the need to practice a presentation to an actor’s need to prep for a role: “Great presenters know they’re just actors in the theatre of commerce. They prepare with the same level of professionalism and dedication to their craft.” To ensure your presentation is flawless, Phillips recommends you following these steps.

  • Read and speak through your presentation several times, first to yourself and then with your manager, a peer or a friend. Speaking through your presentation is critical because often what communicates well in the written word is not effective when spoken.
  • Test against your objective. When rehearsing with another person or reviewing your own practice tapes, give your audience a cold read and then listen for feedback about how clearly your central themes come through and how compelling they find your message and value proposition.
  • Time your presentation. Know your time marks at each key point in the presentation so you know where you can expand or contract your comments. This tactic will help you tailor the message to the needs of the audience, while staying within the confines of the allotted time.
  • Record yourself delivering your presentation on audiotape and/or videotape. Just as professional sports teams study game films to refine strategies and execution, you should record and review your rehearsals to help sharpen your presentation skills.
  • Know your environment and test presentation tools. Know all of your technical requirements (power, lighting, amplification, communications), physical requirements (podium, tables, supplies, refreshments) and audience requirements (seating, tables, support materials). When possible, practice your presentation in the actual environment with all of your presentation tools. When this is not possible, test all the tools you have access to, confirm the availability of everything else you’re expecting onsite and arrive early to set up.
  • Beware the AV department. Few salespeople recognize that Murphy’s Law works in the AV department. Each connection between your presentation technologies, from the wall outlet to the projection screen, is a potential point of failure on presentation day. The worst time to diagnose technical problems is two minutes after your presentation was scheduled to begin. Inevitably you’ll lose your audience’s attention, lose your confidence and focus, and undermine your credibility and that of your message and your firm.