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Take the Plunge: 5 Top Tips to present with Power

You have heard the dreaded news: you have to give a presentation. It is weeks away and already you are feeling those first early feelings of sickness and anxiety. You know that these are only going to get worse as the event approaches, so you do everything you can to put the event out of your mind until the last possible moment, thinking about anything and everything you can to avoid thinking about having to stand up in front of all those people and speak. Finally the day arrives and you are a nervous wreck, you’ve barely slept the night before, you haven’t eaten, you are shaky and feel sick. You heart is hammering as you step on the stage and address your audience…

Public speaking of some kind or another is an inevitable part of many people’s working lives and yet it seems to take people completely by surprise every time! As a result it is not an enjoyable experience, we allow our anxiety to get the better of us and as a result give a performance which we are unhappy with, which further compounds our anxiety for the next time. So what’s the solution?

I would suggest this. As soon as you find out you have to speak, begin your preparation. Start jotting down ideas, thoughts, feelings; and before you even have a script ready start to PRACTICE. Public speaking is not a spectator sport – you learn by doing, so DO. Arrange a meeting where you will present to some of your closer colleagues, people who you trust to give you honest feedback but will support you. Perform your presentation for your family, for your friends, whoever you trust who will watch you and can give you feedback. As your confidence grows, build the size of the group you are presenting to; refine your script and supporting materials, try out new ideas and do it again!

When Dale Carnegie wrote his excellent book about public speaking he probably wasn’t being so literal as to suggest that public speaking is like swimming, but the parallels between public speaking and sports are not inappropriate. Imagine you are going to run a 10k. Chances are if you just turn up on the start line on race day you are going to crash and burn. You train, every day probably, you practice, and you improve. When you are standing on the start line with your fellow racers your adrenaline levels are high, but instead of feeling paralyzed by this sensation it makes you perform better! Treat your presentations like races. The more time you spend training the better you’ll feel on ‘game day’ energised and ready to win.

Here are our top 5 tips for ‘taking the plunge’

1. Dip your toe in the water with presentations to family and friends and small groups of colleagues as early as you can before the event.

2. Practice public speaking as often as you can. Volunteer to do presentations, take every opportunity to speak in front of people you can.

3. Create a ‘culture of performance’ at your workplace, where people perform regularly to each other and give each other feedback.

4. On ‘game day’ treat the presentation like a race. Sleep as much as you can, eat nutritious food (adrenaline burns calories, so eat a little extra to compensate) stay hydrated. The adrenaline you feel when your approaching the stage is just your body’s way of getting you ready to give an awesome talk.

5. Approach every presentation with the aim of getting a ‘personal best’. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be better than last time. If it isn’t, don’t beat yourself up, try and work-out why and how you can get better for next time. Learn from your mistakes.

Don’t let fear of public speaking ruin your life, take a deep breath and dive in.

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