I’ve written elsewhere about how to write original, punchy content for your business presentations. Having great content is often the key to feeling confident about standing up and speaking. But you may still be apprehensive. Here are five tried and trusted tips that form the basis of our one-to-one coaching with nervous presenters. You’ll notice that they don’t include imagining your audience naked. Or visiting the pub on your way to the pitch.
Preparation is king. There’s an apocryphal story about a successful after dinner speaker explaining how he managed to deliver such well-received speeches time after time. His secret?
“For every minute that I speak, I spend an hour preparing.”
Which means not just finishing your final slide and forgetting all about the delivery until you break out in a cold sweat the night before the presentation. When it comes to winning over your boss, impressing investors, or getting your team on board with your vision, your delivery is just as important as your content.
Practice early, practice often, and don’t become that bane of business meetings across the globe: the person who stands at the front of a room and reads off a series of Powerpoint slides. Your colleagues can read, there’s no need to do it for them! Of course, if you read our article on slide building there won’t be any words on them to read!
Knowing your material well will also go a long way to easing the tension you feel before addressing the room. Don’t be afraid to read a script in full so often that you start to complete your own sentences. Read it slowly, so you can glance at your script and then look up to deliver each line. Rehearse it as you intend to deliver it on the day. Putting on the clothes you’ll be wearing on the day will give you yet another reassuring feeling of familiarity when the time comes.
When you stand up to speak you’ll feel much more relaxed, because you’ll have done it all before!
2) Deep breath, shoulders back
First of all, take a deep breath in. Now hold it.
Don’t you feel better already?
Chances are that if you’re nervous you’re also carrying a lot of tension in your shoulders and neck. Take a minute and consciously push your shoulders down. Not only will you feel more relaxed, but your posture will convey that confidence to your audience.
There’s a very simple trick you can play on your brain to help banish those public speaking nerves. Even though you might feel more like frowning, smile! The mere act of smiling can make you feel happier and more contented, even if you have to force yourself to do it. Think of it as fooling your body into a state of relaxation.
It will also help communicate to your audience that you’re at ease and comfortable with your material. After the famous 1960 presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon, people who listened on the radio thought that Nixon had given a stronger performance, but viewers who watched the debate on TV favoured Kennedy.
Appearances matter, so smile!
4) Ease into it
There’s no need for you to launch right into your presentation. If you’re worried about your voice playing up when you first open your mouth, clear your throat before starting and have a sip (just a sip!) of water. Taking a moment before you address the room might feel strange, but it shouldn’t look that way. Your audience is likely to take it as a sign that you feel at ease.
If you’re still worried about your voice sounding squeaky when you begin, ask the room if they can hear you at the back. That gives you an easy opening that isn’t the first line of your speech. Once you’ve warmed yourself up in this way, you’re likely to find it much easier to carry on with confidence.
Of course, make sure that you’re presenting to a large enough room before you try this trick. It would be odd to ask your five colleagues squeezed around a tiny table if they can hear you. If the setting is too small, try thanking everybody for coming instead, or asking if anyone has any questions before you begin.
5) Enjoy it!
When giving a business presentation, all eyes are on you. You could look at this as a terrifying prospect, but there is a more positive way to view the situation: you have an opportunity to make the best impression you know how to make, and your audience’s undivided attention while you do it!
If you can show that you’re confident, that you know what you’re talking about, and you know how to communicate an idea, then you’re already doing better than the majority who absolutely dread talking about their business! Your audience is guaranteed to be impressed.
If you still feel like your heart is going to leap out of your throat at the mere prospect of having to talk in a professional environment, then don’t hesitate to get in touch! Whether it’s prepping your delivery or even writing the speech itself, I have years of experience putting speech worries to rest!
If you want bespoke, one-to-one sessions to help improve your delivery on a specific speech, or indeed want a speech written by us, please call any time.