Back when many of us were still in school, we feared having to answer questions in class or work math problems on the blackboard. We felt that making even one mistake might allow others to discover our various imperfections and insecurities. Yet now that we’re adults, a number of us still feel anxious when we have to make a formal presentation in front of our peers and supervisors. Fortunately, there are ways to approach this common activity that will allow each of us to transcend this corporate version of stage fright.
For starters, you must always act calm -- even if you feel like you’re drowning in nervous energy or about to have your ignorance far outshine your knowledge. Yet in order to act calm, you must first discover what helps you quickly relax and then practice that activity the morning of your presentation.
For some people this simply means spending some time alone; for others, it means putting in a good workout at the gym. After you take time for this practice, be sure to spend a bit of time alone reviewing the notes, slides or transparencies you’ve prepared for your presentation.
Here are some other reminders that may help you appear to be “calm, cool, and collected” while making an excellent presentation that will fully showcase your knowledge and talents.
Ways to Own the Stage or Board Room While Making Your Presentation
- Consider visiting the spot where you’ll be speaking ahead of time. When you’re able to do this, you can spend some time imagining that your audience is sitting right in front of you as you rehearse your opening lines (that you’ve hopefully already tried out on a spouse or sympathetic co-worker in advance). Next, you can quickly review the written list of topics you’ve already jotted down before placing it either on a lectern in front of you or in your pocket – in case you forget the sequence of topics you’re planning to cover. If you cannot visit the forum where you’ll be speaking ahead of time, be sure to run through your presentation at home or in a co-worker’s office well before the time for the presentation. Knowing that you’ve been all the way through your talk at least once can provide you with tremendous confidence and help you stay organized;
- Practice moving about with your speech in hand ahead of time. The vast majority of us tend to just stand behind a lectern while holding the edges of it in a “death grip.” While this is a very common way to try and steady your nerves, you will almost certainly come across as both frightened and rigid to your audience. Instead, plan on glancing at your notes periodically before stepping away from the lectern, slowly returning to it after allowing the audience to follow you as you both speak and move about. While this may add a bit to your own stress, it can help you calm down and makes it look like you’re fully in control of yourself and your presentation ;
- Have a good set of organized slides, poster boards or other visuals created well in advance. The better prepared you are, the more highly involved your audience will become with your presentation;
- If you make a mistake, just make light of it. Otherwise, your audience will become nervous, think you’re ill-prepared and regret coming to hear you speak. All you have to do is simply apologize -- in a lighthearted manner -- for your error and move on;
- Consider joining a local toastmaster’s club. This will allow you to observe many excellent speakers while also honing your own skills. After doing this for a while, it’s entirely possible that you may start looking forward to future opportunities to make presentations in front of others.
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