Are you a leader who has to pitch ideas, speak to groups or motivate a team as part of your role but you get anxious just thinking about it? Or you don’t feel as confident as you would like to when you do present?
Have you had that experience where you stand in front of the group and your nerves take over and your mind starts whirring about whether you’re doing a good job or coming across as confident and knowledgeable?
We hear this all the time from the leaders we help with presentation skills. And although you’ve heard the stat that public speaking is the number one fear for most humans, it honestly doesn’t need to be. Speaking, like any other skill, can be learnt, honed and mastered – and even enjoyed.
And since it’s now a required core skill of most leadership roles to be able to present well – and effectively – to groups anywhere from 10 to a 1,000 people, it’s well worth investing your time and energy to become a confident, effective speaker.
Before we dive into 3 top tips that will help you nail your next presentation, let’s look at the 2 common fears that get that anxiety peaking before you step up to the podium, or just think about doing so!
#1 Fear of Judgement: the worry that your audience will critique you and your presentation, and find it lacking.
#2 Fear of saying the wrong thing or forgetting what you wanted to say: and looking silly or incompetent and damaging your reputation as a confident, competent leader.
We get it, but here’s the thing to remember – you are a highly-skilled individual! You do intricate activities, make high-level decisions, direct teams, and so much more on a daily basis. Your confidence as a leader has grown over the years as you’ve learnt new skills and put them into practice.
And it’s the same with speaking. The difference between you and the confident or influential speaker you want to be are: skill and practise.
To help you with the former, here are 3 key skills that will help you nail your next presentation, which come straight from our most popular programme, Gutsy Presenting.
1. Use An Effective Structure
You are presenting for a reason, often to share information, to inspire and to influence. That’s hard to do effectively without a structure that leads your audience through the information you want to share in a logical, engaging way.
Here’s what we know works:
- Know your purpose: why are you presenting? Are you solving a problem? Announcing changes or results? Whatever it is, make sure your content is relevant to this purpose.
- Map out your content: so you know ahead of time what you want to say. We talk about having a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is introducing the topic and letting them know what you’ll be covering in your presentation. The middle is the 3 to 5 core ideas you want to get across. The end is the wrap-up where you recap what you’ve told them. Remember, this is presenting, not reading a script word for word.
- Manage your timing: so you don’t feel rushed or run over. An advantage of using a structure is it helps you to tailor each section to the time available. For instance, if you’ve got 20 minutes, you know you’ve got 3-4 mins each for beginning and end, and 12-14 minutes to share across the key points in your core content.
- Use stories or anecdotes: to engage your audience and bring your content to life. They can be brief, but often people remember an anecdote far more readily than a piece of information.
2. Know Your Presenting Style
Successful presenting isn’t just about the information you share, but your stage presence and body language as well. Here’s what we recommend to make sure you’re engaging with your audience and not unintentionally distracting them:
- Be aware of your body language: is it relaxed and open? Or fidgety and distracting to the audience? Are you standing behind the lecturn, which can feel distancing, or moving nearer the audience to create connection and more eye contact?
- Manage your nerves: and how that energy manifests physically for you. Wild hands? Talking fast? Foot tapping? Once you’re conscious of your nervous habits, you can counteract them with things like slow pacing, intentional hand gestures, deep breaths or slowing down your speech.
3. Hone Your Voice and Tone
Filler phrases are by far the most common nervous reaction for speakers. Those ums, ahs and bridging phrases like ‘you know’ can be rife! As leaders and humans we tend to not like dead air and talk to fill the gap, but it takes away from your presentation and the ideas you are sharing. So here’s what we recommend:
- Embrace the dead air: because when we eliminate bridging words we deliver a much more well-paced presentation and allow our audience to really hear each idea because there is a moment for them to digest it. If you are a serial filler phrase user, practise sharing an idea and allowing a pause by taking a deep breath or counting to 2 or 3 in your head before you speak again.
- Project your voice: to the back of the room. If you speak to the people in the back of the room you can ensure everyone hears you. Not sure if those in the back row can hear? Ask them!
- Modulate your tone: this is the most underused tool in the presenter’s toolbox. Understand which parts of your speech need emphasis and change your tone to reflect that. You can speak louder, slower or quieter, depending on what the moment needs. It’s a great way to keep your audience attentive and really listening.
Adopt just one of these tips at a time and watch as your presenting confidence steadily increases. But if you want to boost your confidence rapidly or finesse and tailor a particular presentation like a keynote speech, quarterly results or big business announcement, then get in touch and we can let you know the different ways we can help.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 1300 110 165.
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