There are two key elements to great presentation skills. The most obvious of which is being able to present well but actually before you even get to that, it’s essential to get over the fear of presenting since you’re never going to give a great presentation if you’re not willing to actually get up and present in the first place.
Apparently a lot of people are more scared of giving presentations than death, which is completely crazy when you think about it. And yet I’ve heard this, and less extreme articulations of the fear, expressed time and time again.
Having good presentation skills is essential in any industry and particularly in Advertising if you work in Account Management. If you’re not willing to give presentations at some point it will put a limitation on your career progression. You simply cannot rise that high up in Account Management if you won’t give presentations as they will become an almost weekly, or even sometimes daily, occurrence the further you progress.
How well you present will come with time and practice but first you need to overcome the fear that makes you not want to present in the first place.
7 tips to overcome your fear of presenting and improve your presentation skills
Identify the fear
What are the negative things you are worried about happening that are causing your fear of presenting? Are you worried you’re going to forget what you’re saying, or that you won’t present well enough? You need to identify the concerns that are causing your fear as once you do that it will give you a set of actionable points you can work on ahead of the presentation to ensure your fears don’t become reality.
Remember that it’s not about you
You’re doing all this freaking out worrying about what people are going to think of you and that it’s going to be scary standing up in front of them but take a step back for a second. There is a point to the presentation. It’s not some hideous life challenge your client or company has asked you to do just for fun. The point of presentations varies but usually the aim is to inform, persuade or entertain your audience. Focus on that. Shift your thinking away from you to them. After all it is all about your audience. As soon as you shift the focus away from yourself to them it will help take some of the pressure off.
Instead spend your time thinking about what you’re going to put in your presentation so that it does one of the three things above. Think about how you’re going provide something useful for your audience. Work out how you’re going to keep people engaged with what you say. When people go into a presentation they’re not thinking about how you’re going to present it, they’re thinking about what they’re going to get from it. So focus on what you’re giving them.
Practice, practice, practice
Practicing your presentation so well that you know it by heart is an easy way to alleviate presentation nerves. One of the reasons for this is because it will help eliminate the fear that you’re going to forget what you’re saying but the much more important reason is because it then means you will feel comfortable with the material you are presenting and will allow you to actually concentrate on presenting rather than spending every second panicking about what you’re going to say next.
Work out what’s the worst that could happen
It’s so crazy that people say they would rather die than give a presentation because if you mess up a presentation the consequences aren’t going to actually be that bad. Since the majority of people are terrified of presentations themselves you’ll find audiences are generally forgiving of any little fumbles. And most of the mistakes that might be made are also things the audience are unlikely to even be aware of. For example, if your fear of forgetting what you’re going to say does come true the audience aren’t going to know. They weren’t aware of what you planned to say. Only you were. So if you miss something it doesn’t matter. Either just move on or when you remember it, if appropriate, then make the point. The worst consequences of messing up a presentation are only likely to come about it you’re unable to actually give the presentation due to letting the fear take over. The easiest way to avoid this happening is to:
Fake it till you make it
Have you ever watched someone present who’s clearly crippled by fear, has their shoulders hunched over and is staring at the ground mumbling their way through their presentation? When you see that don’t you think, “If you just stood up, rolled your shoulders back and lifted your head you’d have this. None of us would know how nervous you are.” And it really is as simple as that. You may be overwhelmed by fear going into your presentation but no one else needs to know that. Stand up straight and present. If you do, it will give the appearance that you’re confident in what you’re doing and your audience will have no reason to question that. One of the other huge benefits of this is that our body language actually changes how we feel. If we stand tall, act confident and tell ourselves that we are going to do well, changes are we will. As Amy Cuddy says in her TED talk, which is possibly the best thing you can ever watch if you’re lacking in self-confidence:
“Our bodies change our minds…and our minds change our bodies.”
When you see people who present frequently they don’t look at all nervous. That’s probably because they’re not. They’ve moved past the stage where they have to pretend they’re confident whilst presenting and actually just are now. The more you do something the more comfortable you get with it. For those who present frequently it stops becoming a big deal. It’s just part of a normal day. That’s the situation you need to create for yourself. Volunteer for every and any speaking opportunity you can until you to move past having to pretend you’re confident when presenting to a becoming that way.
Before you start giving the presentation take 3 deep breaths to slow yourself down The nerves will be making your heart race and taking deep slow breaths has an instantly calming effect. Then as you start talking and feel the nerves building again, pause in what you’re saying and allow yourself the time to breathe. A panic attack is most likely to creep up on us when we’re not breathing.
Good presentation skills are not an optional extra, they are essential for your career. Start working on these points from today so you don’t let your fear of presenting hold you back.
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