The sheer terror you experience each time you step up to deliver a presentation may well be all your own fault. You had the time to prepare yourself, and you knew in advance the date, time and venue where you’d be stepping up to speak. But instead of seeing a wonderful opportunity to persuade, it was like a long walk to the gallows, with the dread welling up in you as the countdown loomed. The spectre of impending doom in speakers is surprisingly common. The good news is that if addressed head on, it can be soundly conquered, by any presenter who wants to win badly enough.
Instead of focusing on our self imposed limitations, we need to back ourselves and take personal responsibility for what we dish up to audiences.
The first obstacle you need to overcome is your own attitude. The best time to do this is right at the very beginning. What does this mean? Being tasked with delivering a presentation often triggers immediate panic and confusion simultaneously, as you swing into preparation mode. You can’t allow this to happen. How would it be if, for the first hour after having been tasked, you did nothing but focus on how excited you are about the opportunity? You only start thinking about planning a little later.
- You know your topic/product well
- You like yourself and you believe in yourself
- You have an opportunity to persuade an audience
- It gives you something challenging to strive for
- You can try out new things
- You have an opportunity to improve
- You have a great sense of humour, or you’re good looking or both!
Armed with a positive upbeat attitude you have now programmed your subconscious mind to do whatever is necessary to prepare adequately for a superb rendition. You know you need to prepare your content – but that’s fun because it’s your stuff! Keep it simple, not too much information, and certainly not too many slides. Make sure you’re done at least 48 hours prior to the hour.
Now all you need to do is rehearse – once (well that didn’t go so well), twice (wow, that was so much better), and a third time just for insurance and a time trial. Now you’re ready to go and you’re familiar with your content flow. You arrive early on the day, check that your equipment works properly and do a sound/slide check.
Now you have time to take 5 long slow deep breaths. Feel the oxygen fueling your system. Relax, particularly your shoulders. Imagine your audience, waiting in anticipation for your entrance. Punch the air (out of sight of your audience, of course). Feel the excitement building. Control the butterflies. You’re ready. You know how you’ll start, what you’ll say and the order of your content. You have a smile on your face and you feel energised. Your knowledge, your well prepared presentation plus your ability in front of an appreciative audience will ensure that you walk on to the podium in exactly the right frame of mind.
You step up and deliver a powerful, deliberate opening line, and you’re on your way.
What was that about being terrified? Perhaps in a past lifetime….