This is a LMBDW member submission by Sandra Nolan.
Let’s face it, public speaking can be so nerve racking. I remember I always use to fret before going on stage and the following thoughts would come to mind: What happens if I fall on my face as I am making my way to the stage? What happens if no one claps? What happens if people get bored? And the never ending questions don’t stop and you start to feel heart palpitations coming on and begin to doubt your abilities and whether you can go through with it.
We’ve all been there.
It happens to the best of us, and the funny thing is chances are you will never be able to get rid of the butterflies in your stomach no matter how many times you do it. However if there is anything I’ve learnt it’s that with the right preparation and practise, delivering a presentation doesn’t have to be a daunting experience.
Here are my five steps to help guide you to deliver a kick ass presentation!
#1 Practise, practise, practise!
Practise makes perfect right? The number one key point is to remember to practise. I personally like to practise in front a mirror so I can see myself as a member of the audience. You would be surprised how many things you pick up that you can improve on. For example, do you have passion in your voice? Are you delivering monotone? Are you facing your audience? Eye contact? How’s your body language? Audiences like to connect with the people they are watching so if you are reading from a piece of paper chances are you will lose your audience very early in your presentation. Their eyes will glaze over and they will miss out on your key message.
You need to be comfortable in your material and the natural flow of the presentation, which is why it is absolutely crucial to practise in front of friends or family or even in front of a mirror.
Remember you are only given a slot of time to present, so you need to make sure you can fit everything in your allocated time. By practising your speech you will be able to tighten up any loose ends and make any necessary adjustments.
#2 Know your space
So many people miss this! This may seem like such an insignificant detail but it is so crucial. You need to know the layout of the venue, especially if you have never presented there before. Check to see if they have the IT tools needed to assist you presenting- e.g. does the venue provide a USB cord to connect your laptop to their screen? Would you require a microphone? Once you have an idea of your surrounding and you understand the layout, the more you can concentrate on delivering your message.
#3 Know your audience
Whether you’re presenting in front of 10 or 50 people, the key to knowing and understanding your audience is extremely crucial if you want them to focus on what you have to say, instead of playing on their phones.
Understand their level of knowledge they have on the topic you are presenting. If they have an advanced understanding of the topic at hand and your content encompasses basic information, then that is quite an insult and you will lose the connection or rapport you are striving to build.
The same goes if you are speaking to a novice audience and your presentation is too advanced, again you will see their eyes glaze over and chances are they will lose interest from the very beginning.
Knowing your audience is absolutely crucial if you want to deliver an effective presentation and if you want your audience to engage with you. Do your research. Ask what the audience’s demographic is, their knowledge around your topic and what their expectations are.
#4 Be conscious of your body posture
People tend to overestimate the importance of posture. I find the most effective speakers are those that exhibit confidence and have a strong posture. They don’t slouch, they don’t sway from side to side or shift their weight from one foot to another, they demand attention and they are assertive, not aggressive.
It’s natural for people to move their bodies when they present, however sometimes it is due to a nervous twitch. If that’s the case then practise to try and control it. If your audience sees you shifting your weight from foot to foot or you have your shoulders hunched, chances are it undermines your authority and can potentially be viewed as weak from audience members. If they don’t feel you have confidence in what you are delivering, then why would they take in anything you are presenting? As much as we don’t like it, perception is reality. Demand their attention and assert your onstage presence.
#5 Breathe! It will be ok
Remember when you speak, your voice becomes an instrument. This is why it is so important to breathe and relax when presenting (I know, easier said than done). If you are not relaxed or comfortable it will show through your presentation and you may not have the desired impact you set out to achieve.
Everyone gets stage fright. The level of that stage fright depends on the person but by taking deep breaths, speaking slowly and clearly and by reminding yourself that you are presenting to the best of your ability, I find that it eases the pressure.
Practise makes perfect, after every presentation sit down, have a de-brief with the coordinator/your manager and ask them for their feedback. Look at it as an opportunity to continually improve your public speaking skills.