Almost everyone feels a bit nervous about delivering a presentation before a group. Some people would rather undergo a root canal than experience the anxiety of giving a speech.
Follow some basic guidelines for preparation and delivery, and you can transform your nervousness into positive energy that achieves the results you desire.
What’s the purpose of your presentation? There are many reasons to make a speech or announcement, and you need to clearly define your goal. Do you have to deliver bad news to your department? Do you require a decision from your superiors on a problematic business situation? Do you have a solution and want to convince people? Are you trying to sell a solution or product? Most presenters try to persuade their audience to buy into specific ideas. They must sufficiently inspire and motivate listeners to take action or give the green light to act on suggested solutions. You need to lead your audience through the decision-making process so members can go through it with you. Unless they believe they “own” the decision, they won’t act upon it. It’s critical to avoid spelling everything out for them. Let them “see” what the problems are and which decisions are needed. They will then be happy to engage in finding solutions and enthusiastic about acting on them.
- Know Your Audience
Your audience is not merely composed of the people you’ll face when you deliver your speech. It also includes those who may be influenced or affected by your proposal. Before you think about what to say, you must determine who your audience is and what they’ll need from you to buy into your argument. Make sure you’re selling the benefits of your solution—not the features. For example, if your new program benefits the company by saving time and money, this is what you should emphasize. It will appeal to your audience much more than any discussion of actual program features. Always focus on your audience’s interests.
- Structure Your Presentation
Most of the time, it’s wise to open with a story that reveals a picture of the problem at hand. Stories engage people, especially if they’re personal and real. They create an authentic connection and grab people’s attention. Remember: Your first 30 seconds are the most crucial.
Follow up your story with an honest analysis of the problem, and back it up with research statistics. The Internet makes this part of your task easy, but be cautious about spending too much time on stats.
Then, present the solution. This is the “good stuff,” as people want to know relief is in sight. Spell out the benefits to your audience.
- Strengthening Your Presentation
If you use graphics, don’t become overly attached to them. They should supplement your talk and illustrate key points, not deliver the presentation for you. Don’t use graphics that contain every word you say, and never read directly off the screen. Limit text to subheadings, which should be large enough to read from the back of the room. Don’t talk to the screen instead of your audience. And always be prepared for the possibility of a power or technological failure; bring handouts and have an alternative way to deliver your speech in case there’s no screen.
- Managing Anxiety
Some experts suggest memorizing the first 60 seconds of your speech. If you do this, make sure it sounds natural and authentic. Because you’re likely to open with a personal story, introduce yourself and explain why your topic is so important to you. This makes the first 60 seconds sound natural, even if you memorize your text. Don’t draw attention to your nervousness by telling your audience about it. You can share your feelings, but not your anxieties. Your goal is to present yourself authentically, as a real human being. Don’t fidget or fiddle with your hair, clothes or body parts. Practice your speech in front of a mirror as often as you can, and minimize nervous tics by standing behind a podium, if necessary. Practice drawing a deep breath for instant relaxation.