You know the feeling. That sick, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you commit to delivering an important presentation in front of an audience. Or better yet, in front of your coworkers and your boss.
For many of us, public speaking is one of the things we are required to do, but in truth, would rather run a million miles away from.
So, if you’ve been asked to deliver a presentation and the thought of it makes you want to pass out, don’t panic. Just take it one step at a time and you’ll be ready to go.
1. Don’t Procrastinate
A last-minute scramble to pull together content or materials for your presentation will not set you up for success. In fact, it’s more likely to do the opposite. If the presentation request arrives as an unexpected fire-drill, clear your schedule to allow you to manage your time effectively. If you’ve been given time to prepare, there’s no excuse for leaving everything to the last minute.
That said, if public speaking isn’t top of your list of fun activities, the inclination to procrastinate is a real danger. Creating a short, focused to-do list breaking down the action items required for your presentation and allocate deadlines to help you stay on track.
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2. Prepare for The Worst
Make time to prepare for any potential technical difficulties. It helps to pick three of your biggest fears and create contingency plans on how you can prevent them.
For example, if you’re using unfamiliar equipment or software, such as a projector or video, schedule a practice run in advance. The best prepared presenters will do a full operational run through in advance in the room, or space, where they will be speaking. You can also arrange to have back up equipment on standby in case technology fails.
More than likely your biggest fears will fail to manifest but preparing for potentially challenging scenarios will put your mind at ease.
3. Say It Out Loud
The old saying holds true, practice makes perfect. Articulating your presentation out loud is one of the best ways to calm your nerves. Spend time practicing and fine-tuning how to deliver your opening and closing statements with impact, and how to transition to the key points in your presentation. Focus on the most important messages you need to convey. Don’t do this in your head, say it out loud.
It’s common to fall into the habit of speaking quickly when you’re feeling anxious. Practice will help you find the right pace and flow to deliver your message with impact.
4. Pay Attention to Your Attire
Choosing the correct attire will help reinforce a professional and polished first impression. Plan this with care in advance. If you’re presenting as a team, decide as a group about how you will dress so you appear cohesive.
It’s important to select clothing, footwear and accessories that complement each other and are appropriate for the audience, but it’s crucial the items you select are comfortable for you to wear.
It’s also worth remembering, when the adrenaline is pumping your body temperature will rise. Breaking out into a sweat is something to avoid, so choose an outfit that will allow you to keep cool when under pressure. If you feel hot, sweaty and uncomfortable it will be tough to do your very best. Selecting an outfit, from top to toe, that makes you feel confident will pay dividends.
5. Take Control of Your Body Language
Your physical cues are just as important as your verbal ones. Your audience won’t know you’re a bundle of nerves unless you show them. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication, it speaks volumes.
If time is on your side, ask a friend, family member or colleague to film you as you practice in the days leading up to your presentation. You may catch body language adjustments you want to make, such as slouching versus standing tall or looking at your screen versus connecting with your audience.
When the time comes, walk purposefully. Stand straight. Smile. Make eye contact. If you harness and convey positive energy your audience will respond and give you positive energy back.
Remember, there’s a reason you have this opportunity to present. Don’t ever forget that. Be yourself and enjoy sharing your expertise. It takes time to develop your presentation style, so give yourself time to do that. Line up your next opportunity and the more you present, the more comfortable you will be when you find yourself center stage.
Tell Us What You Think
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