By Lyndon Nicholson
It’s easy, right? Just stand up there and picture all your audience naked. There, done. An article over and you can all have confidence when presenting.
Unfortunately, that is the worst bit of advice that I have ever received and only served to make me feel a bit sick when presenting to a board of very old men.
No, becoming a confident presenter takes more than simply tricking your mind into it, and not everyone will find it easy. Although I’m about to offer lots of advice about improving your public speaking techniques, let’s start with some easy to digest traits that all other great presenters demonstrate.
- Confidence. Confidence is the knowledge that you definitely aren’t going to fail. That’s an easy thing to write, but a very hard thing to actually believe. In truth, even the most experienced presenter will feel nerves and apprehension when standing up to speak. But that experience will have taught them how to fake it: how to appear totally confident and relaxed. After all, confidence is infectious, and if you appear confident, your audience will feel that, too.
- Passion. No great presenter ever wondered on stage and meekly introduced their ideas without showing passion. The thing you’re presenting should be the best thing ever, at least from your point of view, and that confidence and enthusiasm need to radiate to the whole crowd.
- Grab attention. All great presenters and all great presentations start strong. Audiences need to know from the very start that the presentation they are about to see will be a game-changer. It will convey a message or story that will alter how they think about something.
- Authenticity. True stories are always more interesting, and so truthful presenters are always more engaging. The greats all seem to project themselves when presenting, not a character. ‘Be yourself’ might seem as pointless as ‘picture them naked’, but audiences will pick up on the confidence of a speaker who isn’t afraid to hide their true selves.
- Connection. Effective presenters engage with the people watching them. They always keep in mind that although they have a lot to say and a lot to demonstrate, they are doing so for the benefit of their audience. Eye-contact, asking questions, and responding to questions are all part of a good presentation.
Those points are fine, and definitely, ones to keep in mind whenever you present, but everyone can experience fear before speaking publicly; fear that could undo a great talk or sales pitch.
Stage fright is just as real for presenters as it is for theatre actors. Especially if the presentation you’re about to give is hugely important to your career or business.
I’ve found that the best way to conquer stage fright and boost your presenting confidence is to analyze exactly what it is you are afraid of. For most people that will be the fear of failing, either by some technical mishap like forgetting your speech or your slideshow crashing, or because your presentation was somehow weak and ineffective.
You probably aren’t afraid of failing because a tornado destroys the building you’re in, or because an escaped alligator eats your laptop.
That is because you have no control over those, admittedly random, things. But you do have control over your fear of failing because of a lack of preparation.
Think about it…
- If you fear to forget your speech – make sure you learn it backward
- If you fear your presentation is weak – ask for help and advice, either from a colleague or a presentation agency
You have control over these things, and all it takes is the time and energy to tackle them, resulting in a reduction of stage fright before your presentation, and an increase in confidence. You should start by…
Do it over and over again. And then do it a few more times. Know your speech and the running order of the presentation so you don’t need your notes and so you always know what’s coming next. Eliminate the ‘erm…’ from your performance.
As well as your words, know your slides. If you use PowerPoint (and I certainly do), make sure that your screen is showing the slides and info that matches with what you are saying. Learn the sequence so that you can speak and click through them without looking at the screen. Now there’s a slick presenter.
The presentation should be second nature as you enter the room, and no matter what happens, such as a heckling audience member (or indeed an alligator), you won’t lose your place, flow or confidence. Removing that doubt is the best and most effective way to combat stage fright.
Another way is to rehearse your laptop. Eh?
Sounds weird, but technology is a very important aspect of modern presentations, from mobile projectors, touch screens, tablets, phones, and the trusty old laptop running PowerPoint. Whatever you use to show off your ideas, be the master of it all.
Just as you’ll learn to know the order of your slides, so you should learn your tech inside and out. Technical issues can be the bane of even the most seasoned presenter, and from my experience, they happen at the worst possible time.
Therefore get to know your laptop as you would a dear friend. Know what to do if it all goes wrong, refuses to start up, crashes and explodes (well, maybe not that extreme). We’ve all had weird things happen to us, even with brand-new, high-powered computers. Get some knowledge about how to deal with common errors.
The same applies to your projector or screen. Know the set-up process intimately, what wires go where, and how long your gonsion cord is. Ask yourself, what is that strange little button on the projector and what happens if it accidentally gets pressed? Explore all these quirks of the tech well before you begin and your presenting confidence will be boosted.
A further boost will come from knowing as much as possible about, and having confidence in, the environment in which you’ll be presenting. If you’re making a pitch to your boss or some colleagues in your office, that won’t be an issue, but a field sales agent who travels out to their potential clients is essentially going into unknown territory. That can be nerve-wracking.
Information is key here – ask (in a very polite and respectful manner) what methods of presentation delivery they have, like a large screen or projector, and how they prefer to be pitched to. If you’re going to be using someone else’s technology, ask what it is and look up how to work it on the internet. The more you do this, the more you’ll know, and your natural confidence will grow.
Grow your confidence
Just keep in mind that failing to prepare is preparing to fail… as clichéd as that sounds. Rehearse, know what you need to know, and walk into that room feeling like an unstoppable force of presenting confidence. Go get ’em.
If you need more help getting there, get in contact today.