Most professionals have to make a presentation at some point during their carrer and some of us have to deliver them almost every week. However, the single most common reason why people present badly has nothing to do with the quality of their material or their knowledge of the subject, but rather, anxiety - fear of failure.
The first thing to remember is that anxiety or nerves means you are alive and without them your resulting presentation would be like you - dead!
What you need to do is learn to control your anxiety and use it to fuel your enthusiasm.
To control your anxiety you must identify what it is that you are afraid of -
Is it forgetting your lines?
Is it the audience size?
Once you have established what exactly you are afraid of then establish whether or not you can control it.
Imagine you are the captain of an airliner; do you fear flying? Of course not, because you are in complete control of not only the aircraft but also, the crew and the passengers.
You have a flight plan and before you take off, you know the payload, weather conditions for the flight, arrival time, departure time etc. However, what is most significant, you are familiar with flying, you are comfortable with all of that responsibility, because you have flown so many times before and you know virtually everything there is to know about that aircraft.
Therein lies the secret; the more presentations we deliver, the more accomplished we become but equally, we must know what we are talking about, we must know our subject matter inside out, otherwise our audience will find us out
Let's consider the areas that you can control:
Your audience - After all you invited them.
Your material - You designed it.
Your resources - You chose to utilise them.
Yourself - You're no puppet.
If there are any areas you've identified that you can't control, forget them - it'll probably never happen.
Controlling nerves and reducing anxiety:
Organise - Give yourself plenty of time to prepare, know what is going to happen and when. Take the time to rehearse your presentation, preferably with someone you know well. Get them to pride you with objective and constructive criticism.
Visualise - Get into the habit of visualising how the presentation will go, that way the environment will feel familiar even if it's your first time. Imagine the end of your presentation and your audience smiling with appreciation
Drying Up - Make bullet point notes on individual postcards to prompt you (not lengthy scripts) - you may not need them but they will give you that "comfort zone". Do remember to number them though, just in case you accidentally shuffle them
Relaxation - Before your presentation take some time for yourself to relax, breathe deeply, go out into the fresh air and clear your head. Do not allow your mind to mentally rehearse the entire presentation, because you need simply to concentrate on your opening lines. Once you have successfully navigated your way through the first couple of minutes, you will begin to relax - a strong opening is crucial
Warming Up - Clear your throat, practise your smile, drink some water to ensure you are hydrated etc.
Dress appropriately and check your posture -If you look the part everyone will assume you know what you are talking about anyway!
Become mobile - It will keep your audience awake.
Use eye contact and smile - They can't fail to pay attention.
And finally - practice, practice, practice!
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