According to surveys, “public speaking” ranks higher on most people’s list of fears than the word “dying.” People really clam up when it’s time to stand up, even if it’s just in front of their coworkers. It’s ironic that so many people are afraid of getting up and speaking in public, when that is one of the most important skills a person engaged in business today should have. It’s more important than it’s ever been before. A little understanding can go a long way towards melting the fear many people have when it comes to presentations.
Here are a few tips to remember when gearing up for a presentation.
Don’t ever underestimate the great power of preparation
Preparation is everything. Seriously, if you chopped off every part of this article except for those words, people would still benefit from reading it. There is no such thing as a good presentation that you are badly prepared for. There may be flukes – presentations that don’t seem to require much preparation. Most of the time, you’ve been inadvertently preparing for those presentations for years. You already have the understanding. Going into a new subject cold, however, you’re going to have to put in the hours to make sure you know the facts of your speech backwards and forwards. This can also help get rid of some of those pre-presentation butterflies – the better-prepared you are, the less there is that can throw you off.
Know what you’re going to say beforehand. It’s always nice if you can script everything out and then memorize your script, but that really isn’t necessary most of the time, especially as you get better at making presentations, and you lose some of your nervousness. Eventually, preparing will consist entirely of familiarizing yourself with the presentation’s subject: you’ll be able to extemporaneously get up and speak, organizing your thoughts as you go. Practice, practice, practice!
The importance of practice before a presentation
That brings us to practice. It’s related to preparation, but at the same time, it deserves its own discussion. When you are preparing for your first few presentations, you’ll probably want to practice saying exactly what you plan to say. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to replicate the situation you’ll be speaking in as closely as possible. Set up a mock-up of your venue, and have a friend – a non-judgmental friend – sit and watch you give your entire presentation. Have them write notes for you so you can improve your performance. This will not only make your presentation better, it will also improve your morale and make it easier to step up in front of the crowd come opening night.
Don’t let technology steal the show
This sounds extreme when you hear it at first, but you need to be prepared to give your presentation entirely without visual aids. Computers break. And you never know when your laptop, the projector, or anything else is going to suddenly go on the fritz. Make sure that part of your practice is practicing what to do in the instance of various technology failures, including total ones. You’ll feel more comfortable if you know that, even if the power goes out completely, you’ll still be able to give your presentation (if you have to).
Giving a presentation can seem scary the first time you do it. But there’s really nothing to worry about. What you have to remember is that most people are not rooting for you to fail – in fact, quite the opposite. The audience wants your presentation to go well. They want your subject matter to be interesting. They want your jokes to be funny. They want you to be charming and comfortable, and they want to have a good time. You’re all on the same side, you’re all hoping it goes well. That takes a lot of the pressure off. And it lets you get up there and have fun.
It is true that the business environment is a cut-throat place to be around. People are extremely competitive, and they would do anything to succeed. If you want your staff to thrive, teach them that public speaking and presentations are not as scary as they seem at a first glimpse.