Preparing for Your Presentation

As you prepare for your upcoming presentation to an audience of adults, here’s a checklist of items to plan for. They will help you make a good impression and leave a positive message in the minds of your listeners.

  • Prepare a brief bio about your professional qualifications and a summary of your presentation for your host to use in promotional materials and in introducing you.
  • Include personal anecdotes that highlight your connection to the community.
  • Customize your presentation with specific local information that the organization will find interesting or useful.
  • Include an effective closer that sums up your presentation.
  • Practice your presentation in front of a mirror or with a group of friends or colleagues.
  • Brainstorm possible questions and answers related to your presentation.

On the day of your presentation:

  • Arrive early. 
  • Set up your audio/visual equipment and any other materials for demonstrations or experiments. Be prepared to troubleshoot! You may want to have an extension cord, masking tape, printed handouts, and files saved to a flash drive, etc.
  • Introduce yourself to organizers when you arrive and attendees as soon as they come in.

Localize your presentation:

The best way to ensure success with your audience is to put yourself in their place. What would they like to know about the particular subject of your presentation? How it might affect them personally? Here are some points to consider to localize your presentation:

  • Introduce yourself as a member of the community and emphasize your local connections. Provide personal information that the audience can relate to. This greatly increases audience receptivity.
  • Provide local examples of community members who are chemists. For example, chemical scientists work at the local hospital, in the crime unit of the police department, at the water sanitation department and as teachers in local schools and colleges.
  • Provide local economic impact examples. If there is a well-known chemical company in your community, contact the public information office for data about the products they sell, the number of chemical scientists they employ and the financial contribution they provide to the community. Better yet, if you work for such an organization, use data related to your company. It’s more personal and provides you with an opportunity to talk about what you do.
  • Give concrete examples from daily life that illustrate specific personal benefits of chemistry that your audience will understand.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask them to identify professional or personal relationships with chemistry. They may provide you with just the launching point you need for an engaging conversation.

During your presentation:

  • Leave time for questions and answers.
  • Be flexible. Every group has its own quirks and each location has its own set of logistical challenges.
  • Keep your presentation moving. If you have a PowerPoint presentation, avoid spending too much time on one slide, reading directly from your slides, or taking too much time between slides.
  • Be prepared to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll be happy to get back to you with an answer.” 
  • Be courteous, smile, pay attention to time and thank the audience for their attention.

After the presentation:

  • Bring and distribute your business cards. If you’ve offered to follow up on any audience questions, be sure to get their contact information too.
  • Thank the organizers who helped you schedule and prepare for the presentation.

Handling Difficult Questions

Whenever you put yourself in front of the public, you should be prepared for someone in the crowd to ask you a difficult question. How you respond will leave a strong impression on the audience. You may or may not have the answer to the question you are asked. Either way, you should respond with empathy, sincerity, and a suggestion of action or assistance.

  • Express empathy or concern (see below).
  • Relate a personal story or cite an analogy that shows you identify with the questioner’s concern.
  • Start with the conclusion. Present the facts.
  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Provide two facts. Make sure at least one fact is supported by a credible third party.
  • Repeat your conclusion.

If you don't know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know.” If possible, offer to find out the answer and respond at a later time. 

A few extra tips:

  • Don’t repeat negative allegations against you or your organization. Say “no” and go on to explain why not.
  • Speak in simple terms. Do not use jargon or technical terms.
  • When possible, relate your answer to your presentation.
  • Remember the purpose of your speech. Stick to the messages you want to convey.
  • Try to satisfy the questioner and the audience, but retain control.