You’re at ease mingling with colleagues at the chamber of commerce mixer, chattering happily about business. But standing in front of an audience? That’s a whole different ballgame.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make a presentation despite the fact you’re as nervous as a small nun at a penguin shoot, this post is for you.
Repeat to yourself: There is no monster in the closet
As a kid, you may have loved to ham it up in front of an audience. As adults, we often associate public speaking with a level of terror once reserved for the bogey man – even though we know it’s essential to our success as marketers.
A first bit of advice? Breathe deeply. It really does help if you’re nervous. Remember, too, that there’s no shame in being nervous. Even seasoned performers admit they get nerves to the point of being physically ill before taking a stage – but they do it anyway.
The audience expects you to be nervous, because they would be, too.
Now, if you were being asked to speak about space/time ripples or particle physics, you’d have every right to be afraid. But you know this subject. Remember how confidently you spoke during the mixer? You’ll be delivering the same information. What could anyone ask about your area of expertise that could possibly stump you?
“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about.”
– Michael H Mescon, famed business author and speaker
So, why worry? Relax. You’ve got this.
Use these public speaking tips to give a presentation that knocks ‘em dead:
- Structure your content like a story. No matter the topic, every presentation needs a beginning, middle and end. Whether you're presenting your latest marketing data or delivering a keynote at an industry trade show, lead your audience through your material just as if you were telling them a story. Set up a challenge in the beginning. Work through the challenge in the middle. And come out the hero at the end.
- Use anecdotes whenever possible. Bring your story to life by making it relevant and relatable. Real-life examples can be especially effective at the beginning and end of your presentation. Starting out with an anecdote also helps you set up the message you want to convey to your audience. Ending with an anecdote lets you sum up and reinforce that message you’ve just delivered.
- Don’t let your visual aids run the show. Go to YouTube and watch some of the top TED talks; you’ll see that many speakers, if not most, don’t use any visuals at all. If they do, the visuals take a supporting role to what the presenter is saying. In other words, if you can’t get through your presentation without a deck of incredibly detailed slides, you need to rethink your message.
- Make your presentation shorter than the time you have. Ask anybody about their least favorite presentations, and chances are they’ll tell you about the speaker who droned on and on and on. Keep your presentation short and concise, even if there’s a specific time allotment you need to fill. You want to leave your audience intrigued and energized, not exhausted.
- Don’t rush. This is about delivery, not the length of your speech. Practice speaking slowly and clearly, so that your audience can keep pace with the important message you’re sharing with them. Uses pauses for dramatic effect. Silence can be your friend and can bring a sense of gravitas to your presentation – which can go a long way toward making you appear confident and in control.
- Use body language to convey confidence. Even though you might be shaking in your shoes, your audience never needs to know. A great way to prevent your nervous energy from getting the best of you is to keep the lower half of your body still. Even better, pick out three people in various locations in the audience and focus on them. The eye contact will help you make a personal connection with the audience, which will come through as you’re talking to them.
Above all, don’t be your tougher on yourself than you would a stranger
We’ve all seen presenters stumble, lose their place or otherwise give an uneven performance. Think about how you react as an audience member in these situations. Do you think less of the presenter or do you sympathize with them? Chances are you sympathize. Your audience genuinely wants you to succeed. They’re rooting for you.
Harness that goodwill, and don’t judge yourself more harshly than your audience does.
A final thought from famed people-person Dale Carnegie: “There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
With the right mindset and some smart presentation skills, you’ll nail it every time you’re up on that stage. Stop worrying about how to make a presentation, and start enjoying the results of your hard work. It’s worth it.
Looking for more ways to deliver a killer presentation? Download our marketing reporting kit for templates that turn ho-hum slides into a powerful statement.