From sales pitches to trying to get senior management on board with a new process to enhance productivity, there comes a time when most of us will be asked to put a presentation together.
Although you might be a whiz at PowerPoint and have a real enthusiasm for the topic you’ll be discussing, many people struggle with confidence when it comes to getting up in front of a group. It can feel daunting to persuade others to take the action you’re hoping for, even if you certain that what you are proposing will change things for the better.
With many of us not being accustomed to public speaking in our day-to-day roles, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most of us simply dread making a presentation. A lack of confidence can really show through and severely limit the impact that the presentation makes on the audience. Luckily, however, there are ways that you can combat any anxieties and deliver a presentation with real power.
Here are our four top tips for overcoming pre-presentation nerves so that you can deliver a winning presentation like a pro.
1. Channel your nervousness
Nerves can be powerful, and if left unchecked, they may be at their most debilitating at exactly the time you need to get up and strut your stuff in the boardroom.
A nervous presenter can do little to inspire confidence in the audience, so learning how to channel this energy into a positive force is essential if you want to get the right outcome following your presentation.
Breathing is key when it comes to taking control of your nerves, so take your time when opening with your presentation. Before you start, take some deep belly breaths to calm down your body. Then, when starting, depending on the audience, you might choose to break the ice with a joke. Take a moment to assess the room and feel your feet on the floor. This will help to center and ground you. Take heart from the knowledge that you will probably become more settled as you start to get into the swing of things.
Try and avoid feeding your nervousness by staying in one spot. Also, watch out for pacing, fiddling with cue cards, or fidgeting with whatever you have in your pockets. Instead, concentrate on your breathing, take your time delivering each piece of your presentation, and don’t forget to smile!
2. Develop your presentation
One of the best ways of creating a powerful presentation is in the preparation. If you’ve spent enough time creating a solid structure, stating your objective clearly and communicating the strongest points of your pitch or argument, then you’ll feel far more confident in your abilities when it’s time to make that all-important delivery.
A good way of really getting your point across is to view your presentation from the perspective of your intended audience.
- Are you being too technical and using terms they may not understand?
- Could you simplify your language to be better understood?
- Are you using too many filler words and overly complicated descriptions that create a barrier between you and your audience?
- Do you have compelling visuals and is everything easy to read?
Many excellent presentations deliver complicated concepts via the use of visual aids such as infographics, charts and diagrams, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague with a flair for this kind of thing for a little help. These formats not only make key messages easier to get across, but they can also give you a much-needed pause during the presentation to breathe and center yourself.
3. Practice makes perfect
It’s an old saying, but it remains true to this day – practice really does make perfect (or at least, much better) when it comes to building confidence in presentations.
Although you’ll probably only get the opportunity to practice your presentation skills a limited number of times on the run-up to the big day, how you practice and who you choose to practice your presentation on are equally important.
As the first port of call, it’s a good idea to video yourself doing the presentation from start to finish without anyone else present. This gives you a good idea of areas you might need to work on. Using an iPad or similar device for recording, use the recording to identify where you might be rushing through the key messages you want to deliver and observe how your body language is impacting the overall power of your presentation. Also pay attention to any areas you appear to struggle with, how loud your voice is and whether you’re projecting confidence.
Once you’ve done this and fine-tuned any areas with which you aren’t 100% happy, it’s time to try out your presentation in front of a live audience. You might choose to ask a close friend or colleague to sit in on your presentation practice run, but just make sure that you choose someone who is likely to give you honest and constructive feedback. While it’s nice to get encouragement (and you should make sure that they point out positives in your presentation), if you really want to improve, make sure that they give you helpful critiques as well.
After the presentation, you can also ask them to discuss the takeaway messages they gained from the presentation. This can really help to build your confidence and is invaluable when it comes to making last-minute adjustments.
4. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Even the best public speakers in the world had to start somewhere, so don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake during your presentation.
Everyone understands that making a presentation can be a nerve-wracking experience, so if you do find that you’ve missed something out or have gotten into a bit of a muddle with your cue cards, simply breathe and make light of the situation rather than rushing to the end of your script so you can get out of there and retreat to the safety of your own office.
Remember, audiences relate much better to someone who comes across as a human being and doesn’t seem like a robot just reading from a set script. Laugh any minor mistakes off and engage with your audience a little to diffuse any tension in the room and better engage the group.