How to Survive Your Next Oral Presentation




When Ahmed L., a senior marketing manager in Riyadh was asked to give an important sales presentation in Jeddah to some important potential customers, he felt he was prepared.  He knew the customer’s problems and how to solve them; he knew their product and how to tell them the way to sell it more skillfully; and, he knew effective persuasion strategies for giving an oral presentation.


However, he forgot two important things, and they really cost him a lot.  His presentation was failure, and he lost the customer’s business.


Ahmed could have avoided this disaster and done very well, if he only remembered to Be Aware of two important elements:

1) His own physical health BEFORE the presentation

2) The essential supplies he required DURING the presentation



Most managers, executives and supervisors who are responsible for giving presentations should consider their physical health before the presentation time.  For example, Ahmed did not know that it is best to avoid sugary or carbohydrate-loaded food such as macaroni and rice at least one hour before speaking.  These food will cause laziness and tiredness during your presentation.  And, sure enough, it did for him.


With the rice, Ahmed tried some new spicy food from India for the first time.  His stomach was hurting now.


He did know, however, that other foods such as leban, ice cream, cheese, and chocolate taken just before a presentation will cause an uncomfortable build-up of mucous in the mouth and throat.  So, he avoided them and didn’t have to clear his throat while he was talking.  Ahmed also knew that, sometimes, because of nervousness, any hot beverage drunk too quickly could cause big trouble by burning the tongue or lips.


Unfortunately, Ahmed did not know that he should get rest the night before.  He traveled from Riyadh to Jeddah, called some of his old friends from his University days and stayed up all night talking and eating with them.  He also forgot some other important things.


In Saudi Arabia, for example, the different climates of Riyadh and Jeddah – from dry desert to humid seaside – can irritate your throat and nose and even cause an allergic reaction.  The air conditioning level in your hotel room may not be the same as in your home, so care must be used in adjusting the temperature and fan settings.  Make them the lowest possible, to protect your voice and health.


Most importantly, do not try to fight a fit of nervousness just before the presentation by deep breathing or exercising.  You may hurt yourself.  In fact, deep breathing too much could cause you to become dizzy.  Research shows that more than 5 times deep breathing could do damage when you are nervous.  Instead use “Square Breathing,” Emphasis of voice and gestures, “Cross-Crawl” exercising, but mostly, PRACTICING helps.





To continue this sad story, several embarrassing problem confronted Ahmed when he started his presentation.  He realized that he had forgotten his handouts on the dining table when he was looking at them during lunch.  He did not have time to return there, because he was now standing in front of his customers. 

So, he though he would improvise and just use his Power point slides to remember what he needed to say.

He needed to use an electrical connection for his laptop because last night he used up the battery surfing the Internet with his friends.  He put his laptop PC on the table in the hotel conference room.


But, the cord did not reach the outlet in the wall, and Ahmed did not have an extension cord.  He did have backup plastic transparencies, but there was no Overhead Projector in the room either.


Then, he decided to write an outline of his main points on the chalkboard that was in the conference room, but there was no chalk or eraser.  This was surely a disaster, and he was alone in front of the room.


Ahmed could have avoided most of these problems, if he had followed the first rule of professional presenters – at least one hour before your schedule time of speaking, check the room you will be in.  Beyond that rule, he should have thought to take along the following survival tools that everyone who wants to be a professional presenter must have:



1. A long, excellent quality electrical extension cord with an adaptor for different kinds of plugs.  Also, a small-size 110/220 converter (or ask the hotel or conference room to provide one).

2. A roll of strong electrical tape (or duct tape) that you secure cords and wires with to the floor, so you do not trip over them.

3. An extra set of note cards that you keep in your pocket.

4. Your own sticks of chalk and a small cloth to use as an eraser.

5. A miniature, travel office supplies kit which contains scissors, glue, stapler, clear tape, paper clips and pencil with eraser.

6. Colored transparencies markers.

7. An extra set of prepared transparencies (just in case the PC does not work) and some blank ones that you can write on (just in case).

8. Your entire presentation in printed form (at least 2 copies – one for you and one for the KDM) in case the electricity or something else prevents you from using the equipment.




In conclusion, these items can easily be carried in your briefcase and can do more than just change disaster into survival.  They can mean the success of your presentation and maybe even your business.