Preparation and being natural are the keys.
Every professional has to present their ideas from time to time, but many of us still get sweaty hands and flushed cheeks at the thought of standing in front of a room of 20 people, let alone 150 critics at a launch meeting or POA.
Here are 5 easy tips to remove most of the fear.
1. Preparation. I know this sounds simplistic, but most of us don't do it enough. Script your first 3 slides and rehearse them often.
Don't memorize your slides, but say it enough times so that you know what you are going to say next. This will help settle the butterflies in your stomach and allow you to proceed with confidence.
2. Eye contact. Yes, look at people. Engage them visually, and not just one person. Make eye contact with as many people as is practical.
Making eye contact serves two purposes; it shows you believe in what you are saying, and it also allows you to “read the room.” The visual clues will tell you whether you should slow down your delivery, speed it up, or stop to ask or answer questions.
3. Questions. Giving a great presentation is the goal, but if no one asks questions, you have no idea if they understood where you took them.
If no one asks you questions, then you should ask the audience some questions. It is the best way to pull your audience in and make them part of the presentation. Questions can make a rigid audience a little nervous, which means they will pay more attention…your goal!
4. Movement. Move around. I don't mean the sort of movement associated with the song “Shout.” You won't be a distraction if you move around since most people communicate with their hands and arms.
Use natural arm and hand gestures, and occasionally move forward, take a few steps back, and move to either side. The movement will relax you and help keep the audience focused on you.
5. Tone. Speak confidently and loudly enough to overcome the noisy ventilation in the room, but don't be too loud. You don't want to use your teleconference “speaker voice” for the duration of the presentation.
Try to practice ahead of time in a room of similar size to the one you will be giving your presentation. Practice speaking over the conversations outside the room.
Preparation builds confidence. It also allows you to stumble a few times in private and find out whether your slides make as much sense verbally as they did when you wrote them.
You cannot prepare too much, and preparation won't take away the spontaneity that mesmerizes a room when you do it well.
So, next time you get that terrible gut feeling when you have to present to executive management or at the national sales meeting, follow these 5 simple tips and you will be checking the box on your way to the next promotion.