Over the years, I have been invited to speak at all kinds of events, from local ones in Hertfordshire to the Women as Leaders Conference at the IoD. I can certainly remember my first and I have to admit that I still get a little nervous! But without a few nerves, speaking wouldn't be the same experience. So here are my top tips to overcoming your fears for successful and confident presenting.
It sounds obvious, but smiling immediately makes you feel better. Starting with a smile will put you in the right frame of mind and it will make others smile with you. Also, where appropriate, make bigger gestures with your arms or hands. This will help you to illustrate points and also makes a more animated performance for your audience.
This one is key and is my secret to really overcoming those last minute nerves. Breathing slowly and calmly is essential. I find that 1-4-2 breathing works best just before you go on stage. You breathe in for one second, hold for four seconds and then breathe out for two seconds. Repeat at least three times.
By slowing down your breathing, you will relax more. This will also help in steadying your hands which can become shaky with nervousness and this never looks good on stage. If you have shaky hands, don't try to conceal them, as people will feel you are hiding something.
Don't hold any papers as that exaggerates any shakiness. Also, as above, use your hands creatively and you will soon distract yourself and the audience.
Beyond the basics of presentation skills like eye contact and speaking clearly, how you can show that you're confident in what you're presenting? Enjoy the moment and the fact that people want to listen to you. Speak slower than usual, as this will have a calming effect on yourself and others. It will also make you easier to understand.
If you can, I would suggest speaking more loudly than usual. If you know how to project your voice, do that.
If using Powerpoint, make sure the slides look good. If you are not good at creating presentations, consider outsourcing that to a designer. Once you are happy with your presentation, spend plenty of time rehearsing.
Also, I would recommend that you know the order and the content of your slides, so that you know what is coming up next. It looks much more professional if a presenter is not always looking up at the screen and, even worse, if they read directly from the screen without addressing their audience.
Many people are afraid of fielding questions after their presentation as they're worried about looking like they don't know an answer, or being 'caught out'.
You should only be speaking on topics that you are very knowledgeable about. Know that people are not trying to 'catch you out'; they actually want more information on your subject. So you should be happy that you engaged with them enough to elicit that kind of response!
Find out more about Mindy Gibbins-Klein
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