When it comes to presenting in front of an audience, client or management, the best way to overcome your presentation anxiety is through preparation and practice.
Preparation is key
Another way to help you reduce your fears and overcome your anxiety is by preparing your content well. No doubt you will spend a considerable number of hours putting the content and slides together for your presentation. Know your content inside out and back to front. Rehearse your presentation until it sounds completely natural.
You need to present like a professional, so dress like one and consider how to sound like one. Act confidently and make eye contact. Be pleasant, respectful and never overly familiar. Whatever happens do not read your presentation either from a script or a screen. If you’re very nervous use cue cards, but you’ll look much more in control if you just speak as though the whole thing is spontaneous.
Presentation slides should be uncluttered and use a font that can be easily read, so consider 24-28pt. We are visual creatures so use relevant graphics as they provide an anchor for your talking points. Limit the number of words per slide. Remember that less is more.
Move with Purpose
It’s a fact that the way you move, gesture and use facial expression all help to convey meaning to your audience. If you are saying one thing but your body language says something else your audience will get confused. Their subconscious mind reads a presenter’s body language in order to understand what is being said. Clear gestures and facial expressions will aid the audience’s understanding.
Make sure your gestures are powerful; otherwise there is no point in using them. If you keep your arms locked into your sides, or only gesticulate with your hands and wrists, you will appear uptight to your audience, so relax your shoulders and let the movement flow through your arms naturally. As a rule of thumb, the larger the audience the more expansive your gestures should be. In front of an intimate board meeting you can keep your hands quite close to your body at chest height. In front of a large audience you need to move your shoulders and upper arms too. If you have to raise your voice, then raise your gestures.
Best practices to put you on the road to success
- Craft your presentation so you know the objective and impact you want to make.
- Decide what action do you want the audience to take as a result of your presentation?
- Check the room in advance and determine where you’ll be standing and get a feel for the general environment.
- Practice, practice, practice. Most people know their material but they don’t practice.
- Practice in the mirror at least 3-4 times and time yourself.
You’ll feel less overwhelmed if you know your content and practice it enough. Chances are you may still feel a bit nervous when it comes time to present, so memorize the first five minutes of your presentation. This allows you to deal with the nerves and gives your mind and body time to settle into the presentation.
Last, but not least, know that the audience wants you to do well and succeed!