Are you one of those people who hate giving presentations or avoids every opportunity to stand up in front of a crowd to present? If so, you're in good company. Did you know that three out of four individuals suffer from speech anxiety? Yep, that is 75% of us, which also includes extroverts.
If your goal in life is to ascend the corporate ladder, presentations and speaking in front of your peers will get you there. Whether we're talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, delivering presentations is proven to accelerate your career faster than those who do nothing.
However, delivering presentations alone won’t do it. You need to present with flair and confidence. The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well.
It is important to keep in mind the following keys to successful presentations:
Prepare! Know your audience – what are their interests and needs and how can you benefit them? Know your material – make sure you have a thorough understanding of what you are presenting and are able to answer questions on the topic. Research and gather information about your main topic and start to formulate a plan of what you want to present. Know your goals – what is the desired outcome of the presentation? What topics support that outcome?
Create a Strong Presentation. Start with an opening that will gain the attention of your audience. You can use questions, interesting facts, or a good story. Do not have too much text and copy in your presentation. This will keep you from reading each item word for word. Use short phrases in the presentation and have your talking points in the notes section which no one will see. Close your presentation by summarizing your points and ending with something the audience will remember, such as a call to action or a good quote.
Create Strong Visual Aids. Use PowerPoint, graphs, charts, and/or props to keep the attention of your audience. Visual aids should be eye-catching and should enhance your oral presentation rather than detract from it. You want people to hear what you are saying rather than focusing on the visual aid.
Practice, Practice, Practice. This step is important to feeling more confident during your presentation. You can practice with your accountability partner, a peer, a manager, a family member, or even to yourself. You do not want to memorize the presentation – you want it to sound conversational which is more engaging to your audience.
Relax! Before the actual presentation, use stress-reducing techniques that work for you. You may want to stretch, take deep breaths, and visualize something that calms you and makes you happy. Keep in mind that the audience wants you to succeed and is not against you – this helps you to feel more in control, which in turn relaxes you.
Answer Questions. At the end of your presentation, you want to make sure the audience understands what you just presented. Take the time to answer questions. If you do not know the answer to a question, it is fine to say “I don’t have that information right now. I will get that information to you after this meeting.”
Be Confident.During your presentation, you need to be aware of how you are speaking and your body language. Speak clearly and loud enough. Use tone to emphasize your points. Be brief, ask questions of your audience, and avoid saying “um” or “uh.” Make sure that your body language is congruent with your message. Smile, make eye contact, and stand confidently with your shoulders back.
Lastly, know that the more presentations you give, the more comfortable you will become. Take every opportunity at work to get in front of a group of people and share your thoughts and ideas, so you won't be one of those people who hate giving presentations.