Here’s the thing! Standing up in front of others may be what you were born to do. With an audience at hand, you may get a buzz from the crowd, and your skills at presenting may be second to none! The late lamented Steve Jobs had nothing on you! On the other hand…
Standing up in front of others may be your worst nightmare. Perhaps because of a fear of vulnerability, you may dread the idea of talking in front of a group of people. Whether it’s in a small room talking to your clients or investors, or in a larger auditorium delivering a presentation to your business peers at a conference, you may want the ground to swallow you up to take you to a place that is safe and away from the critical eyes of others!
So, assuming you fall into the latter category, and you dread the idea of delivering any kind of business presentation, we have some tips for you.
Benefit from training. Nobody is perfect, but you can build up your skills through training. Check online or with your local colleges for any training that may be available to help you with the unenviable task of leading a business presentation. For starters, training in public speaking may be of use to you. Giving you the skill to speak in front of others without melting into a puddle of nerves, this is one key area that will definitely stand you in good stead for your speaking engagement. Secondly, consider Powerpoint or Visio training classes. Here, you will learn how to create a visual backup for your presentation, from flowcharts to slideshows. With training in these and other areas, you will build up your confidence in the skills needed to effectively demonstrate your presentation in front of others.
Prepare your material. The worst thing you can do when feeling nervous about giving a presentation is not planning it thoroughly. Preparation is key, as getting up on stage and ‘winging it’ may be one step away from much personal embarrassment. Therefore, consider what you need to say and research vital information. The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely you are going to make a good impression, especially if you are having a Q and A session. Structure your presentation too, using this guide to deliver something that will engage your audience. And know who your audience is. Depending on the demographic you are speaking to, you may want to tailor your presentation accordingly. After preparing your material, you are then ready to go forward with the next step.
Practice your presentation. Having prepared your material, you should enlist friends, family or business colleagues to listen to you going through your presentation. It doesn’t matter if you go wrong in an informal setting, and your listeners may be able to give you a few pointers if any weaknesses are apparent. They will tell you if your attempts at humour don’t land, or if there are any dull stretches in what you were delivering. They will also let you know what went well, so you may be encouraged to know that you may actually be better than you think you are. Another good idea is to record yourself. You can then play back the recording later, giving you the opportunity to see what you look and sound like giving your presentation. If there are any flaws in your delivery, you can work on perfecting them.
Prepare for the day. Preparing your material and delivery is one thing. But then there are all the other things you need to prepare for, such as getting together all the equipment necessary, and having a backup in case something stops working, such as your laptop. Get to know the place you will be speaking in too. Know where you will be standing, find out where electrical sockets are and have a run through of your material in the real environment. Think about any questions you may be asked by your audience, and anticipate the answers. The more you can do in advance of the big day, the less nervous you will be.
On the day itself. Assuming you haven’t decided to call in sick (those blasted nerves), get to where you need to be in good time. This will enable you to physically set up for the day, and give you time to mentally prepare yourself. Use some of these relaxation strategies to calm your nerves. As your audience arrives, know that they are here to support you and not judge you, so don’t consider them a threat. Have cue cards on hand to help you as you deliver your presentation. And take your attention away from yourself and focus on your audience. They have come to learn from you, so no matter how you feel inside, remember your job is to benefit their day. Chances are, you will do better than you think you will, especially if you have prepared your material and practised beforehand. And if you do screw up in front of the audience? It’s not the end of the world, and assuming it’s not a huge faux pas, shrug your shoulders, make light of your mistake and move on.
We aren’t all equipped to stand in front of others, but follow our advice, and you will stand a better chance of success the next time you have to deliver a business presentation. And if you have conquered your fears? Let us know what you did, giving those of us with fretful nerves the benefit of your wisdom. Thanks for reading.