The fear of presenting holds many people back in their careers.
It is said that less than 20% of the working population is comfortable presenting in public. That’s a shame. So many positions that are waiting for us out there require great presentation skills.
This post is dedicated to anyone who needs to meet with a group of people of any size and get a point across. This is not just for the professional speaker, the high profile salesperson or the director of public relations. This is for all of us. Every leader needs to be able to present well. Every salesperson, regardless of their product or market, needs to be able to present well and that includes those selling over the phone. Managers at all levels need to be able to present well. Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, great athletes and more all need to be great presenters.
We often think that improving our presentation skills is all about addressing our presence on stage or in front of the podium. This is really important. These are the basics, and so often the first things we learn about presenting: where to stand, where to look and how to project. But when it comes to presenting well, we need to address the elephant in the room: our fear. The most important element to good public speaking is conquering our fears. With less trepidation and more confidence the ‘basics’ will come more naturally.
Here are my three tools that, used properly, will help to conquer your fear of presenting and thus become a better, if not a great, speaker.
Know Your Audience
Before you present to anyone you need to sit in their seats and understand why they are there. You need to ask yourself what are they looking for from me? Why are they here? What is the best outcome for them at the end of the session? What questions or objections might they have after this presentation?
Pre-empting your audience reaction is so important when presenting. With all of this information, if it’s available to you, you can frame your message so that it comes out right the first time. Ideally you are going to cover all of their needs. Truthfully you may not know exactly what they are thinking nor how they will react but that’s all right. Knowing these gaps is just as important.
Watching someone in front of me present an idea and correctly anticipate issues or questions I might have is a very pleasant surprise. Your audience wants you to know that you know them. And most importantly, your knowledge of their position, situation or needs will help in the battle of your nerves.
Have a Plan
You need to have a set plan before you step in front of the audience. What are your objectives? What do you want to get out of the session? How will you address your audience’s needs, problems or issues? What is the key message and how are you going to frame it? And while are at it, why not ask yourself how you can make this a memorable moment in your audience’s life. These ideas sound lofty and ideal but if you don’t address them beforehand and embed them in a plan you are risking the desired outcome. One more tool that, if applied properly, will contribute a little more to the battle of the nerves.
There is nothing worse than sitting in a presentation that is scattered, disorganized and all over the map. You need to be very clear with your audience about the message, the process and the objectives. Tell them right up front what you are about to tell them. Tell them how long you are going to be with them and how you are going to present to them. Show them the big picture at the front end and then start drilling down into each section. At the end come back to the big picture and tell them what you wanted to tell them, where you’ve been and where you stand now. Guide them carefully and logically through your journey. Structure and clarity is the third key to battling your nerves.
Conquer your presentation nerves and you will discover the power of presenting well. Leave the nerves (or most of them) behind and you can start to concentrate on the basics and more.
Understand you audience, have a plan and be very clear in your message.
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