I have recognized that many participants in our business presen- tation seminars feel that a lack of confidence or nervousness is the main reason they need to develop their presentation skills.
They also recognize that to be successful in international business they need to be good at presenting their ideas, products and services in English. Which means having the confi- dence to stand up in front of an international audience and clearly and confidently present their ideas. The good news is that by the end of the seminar the participants can do just that, they have successfully developed their presentations to a level suitable for international business. They have learned skills and techniques skills to prepare and confidently deliver successful business presentations as well as tech- niques to manage their nerves and interact with their audience. Notice I didn’t say to get rid of their nervousness. This is because presenting is not a natural activity; even the most experienced presenters get nervous. The key is to decrease your level of nervousness so you can use your energy positively and not let your nervousness control you. To help bring your nervousness under control, here are some key tips to remember.
Consider Your Audience
Always start your preparation by considering your audience. The more you know about your audience the less nervous you will be. Think about your audience’s expectations:
- What do they want to learn?
- What is their level of knowledge?
- How will they use your information?
- What need are you serving for?
- What problems do they have?
The more confident you are presenting them with useful and interesting material that satisfies their needs and expectations; the less nervous you will be overall. Remember that you are there for them and that they want you to succeed.
Even the best content can be ineffective if your presentation style contradicts or detracts from your message. Basically decide whether your purpose is to inform or persuade. Then, logically structure your presentation content using a simple structure that builds on the audience’s level of knowledge for informative style presentations. For persuasive style presentations start with the audience’s problem or need and then present your solution and show how your solution solves the problem or satisfies their needs. This will make your presentation easier to follow, understand and remember for your audience. Remember to use visual aids to help the audience understand and remember your presentation. However, keep your visuals simple, do not use them to help you present, they should be designed to help the audience understand and remember your key information.
Practice Out Loud
As the saying goes “Practice makes perfect”. Rehearsal is of course very important. You must practice or rehearse to check the content and build your confidence. After developing your content talk through your presentation a few times and the following points:
How does it flow? – Logically? Are the key messages clear? How long does it take? – Time is OK?
If necessary adjust the content, if you need to reduce the time delete some content, but move any slides after your conclusion slide, they may be helpful to answer questions.
So now you are basically happy with the content. Time to rehearse,
the point to remember is – always rehearse out loud. The purpose is to practice how you are going to powerfully deliver the presentation and engage your audience. If you can persuade a few of your colleagues to be your audience and give you some feedback that would be great. If not try using a web cam to record your presen- tation and then review from the viewpoint of your audience. A few more tips:
- Practice emphasizing key words.
- Practice meaningful gestures
- Practice varying the tone and pace of your voice. Slow down for important words and key messages.
- Practice eye contact by looking at the chairs – not the visuals or notes
- Check your transitions between each point.
- Rehearse out loud at least three times, or until you feel confident.
For those who avoid rehearsal:
If you put off or avoid rehearsing, the more you are feeding your anxiety and you will become more anxious and more nervous. You have to rehearse to break away from this mental pattern. Otherwise the nervous reaction will just con- tinue to grow.
If you think about why or when you get nervous, it is often about losing control over something: your voice waivers, you forget a key point, your hands shake, you turn red in the face, you blank out, etc. Rehearsing helps you gain physical control to improve your delivery.
On the Day
Lastly, on the day, try to get to your presentation venue in plenty of time, at least thirty minutes before the scheduled starting time. Check all the equipment, the room layout, get a glass of water, get comfortable in the room and greet the guests as they arrive. This will help you to relax and hopefully, enjoy your presentation.