The most difficult thing about getting a presentation ready to go live is being sure you are confident in what you are doing. For that reason, I am going to share with you the best advice I ever got:
The audience is on your side. Really, they are. They want you to succeed. They want to learn from you. They wouldn't be there if this weren't the case.
So, when finalizing the presentation, do it from the viewpoint of "I can do this." If you keep that phrase in your mind, you will be much more comfortable than you could imagine.
I hope not. I still get nervous before I train, talk or present. I think it helps you be better prepared. If the event isn't important enough for you to be nervous, you will come off as un-attached and disinterested . You want the audience to know what you are about to say is important. You want them to know it matters to you they "get" what you are saying.
That doesn't give you permission to be un-prepared. It does give you permission to have butterflies in your stomach, to worry a little about your opening sentences, to worry a little about the audience and the environment, and to prepare.
If nerves are getting in the way of the preparation, there are a few simple tricks to try which will limit the effect of the nerves.
Breathe deep. Yawn, even. Yawning relaxes the face and the neck. It is impossible for your jaw to be tight if you are yawning. In addition, a yawn removes excess carbon dioxide from your system. This means you have to breathe in more oxygen to compensate.
Leave the room for a minute. By leaving the room, you can make an entrance when you return, which will do a lot to focus the attention of the audience. Leaving the room also gives you a little exercise, so you loosen up. (If you can take a bathroom break, even better. You will be away from the audience and able to focus.)
If you can't physically leave the room, do it mentally. Turn your back to the audience, close your eyes and think of the ten things this presentation is going to do for you. You aren't going to lose track of the audience, but you will refocus yourself.
Take a slow drink of water. Yes, water. Not pop, not coffee, not anything else. Water is clear. If you spill it, it will dry and not show. The act of drinking will relax you almost as much as a yawn. In addition, it will prepare your throat for the torture it is about to endure.
Warm up your voice. I do a couple of quick sentences from a play or a basic theatrical warm up. Others do true vocal warm-ups. Both achieve the same things: They prepare your throat and larynx for the stress of talking to a group .
Shake out your arms and legs. Stretch your back. Remember, presenting is work. If you haven't warmed up, you may find you regret it later. Think this only applies to long presentations? Think again. Your poor feet and legs are about to hold your entire body weight for an hour or more. Don't they deserve as much preparation and warm-up as your voice?
Still nervous? Don't worry. Focus on what you need to say and what you need the audience to hear, and your nerves will calm down. Remember: Public speaking is the number one fear for Americans. World wide, it is in the top ten fears. Few people in the audience want to do what you are up there doing. They will respect you just for trying, especially if you have done your homework and followed the tips in this book.
When presenting, you will tend to talk faster than normal. The spaces between your words will disappear, and the vowels and the consonants will slur together. This will make it very difficult for the audience to understand you.
If you practice breathing while you speak, you will slow down. If you aren't sure how to slow down the presentation, tape yourself talking through it. Now, listen to the tape. Can you understand the words? If not, try it again. Just the act of being conscious of your speed will slow you down.
The other need for slowing down is to ensure you aren't saying too much. Give people a chance to ask questions. Get them involved. The more they are involved, the more they will remember.
Give breaks. If you are going to speak for more than an hour, take a formal break, if possible. If the schedule doesn't allow for real breaks, make sure you get people up out of their seats for a minute or so. A great friend of mine says the mind can only absorb what the seat can endure. Keep this in mind when you speak.
Remember you are also human. You don't have to know everything. If a question comes up you can't answer, tell the person asking you will get back to her. (Then do!) If you make a mistake, admit it. Allow the audience to know you are human, just as they are.
Ever been in one of those slick sales presentations where the sales person had an answer for everything? How did you feel at the end of the presentation? Did you connect with the speaker, or did you feel they thought they were better than you? Remember that feeling when you speak. If you are too glossy and detached, the audience will know it.
One of the best ways to improve how you speak is to listen to others. Pick up tips and techniques from the good speakers . Learn and improve by seeing what doesn't work.
Now that you are ready, let's do the final few stages of getting your materials ready. First up: the notes pages.