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Painless Presenting

An article by Liz Banks, Skillstudio Ltd, in a recent issue of Recruiter magazine.

Strategies to help you get your message across

Whether it’s presenting to the board or pitching for a new client, the success of any presentation is dependent on structuring a clear message and delivering that message with confidence and conviction.

Obviously, confidence is a crucial element but often the mere thought of giving a presentation can spark off many anxieties. Common worries associated with presenting are: not being able to control your nerves, feeling sick and/or panicky, mumbling or sounding hesitant, forgetting what you want to say, fearing the audience will be disinterested or switch off and being judged by others.

Feeling nervous is natural but there are some simple strategies you can apply before you start to speak to help control the nerves and make you feel more relaxed.

  • Take in a couple of slow, deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, before you start to help control your nervous energy and to slow you down before you start.
  • Clench and stretch your hands and then shake them out. This helps to release tension and to control any fidgeting gestures that can occur when nervous.
  • Walk around the presentation area before the audience arrives to help you to become more familiar with the space. When you start your presentation, you will look and feel more confident.
  • Imagine chewing a very large toffee to exercise facial muscles and reduce any tension in the face.
  • Adopt a positive mental attitude towards your speech. To help achieve this, think of three reasons why your audience should listen to you and say these to yourself before you start the presentation itself.

Top and bottom

A good presentation needs to have a strong opening and ending and a clear structure. The opening and ending are the times when the audience’s concentration is at its highest so it is important to make the most of these.

A strong opening should communicate your key message to the audience and provide the audience with the motivation to listen to you. A strong ending should re-emphasise your key message to the audience and leave the audience with a final thought or question to ponder on.

Structure

You also need a clear structure to keep audience concentration and interest. Restrict the main body of your presentation to three main sections. This helps maintain a clear focus.

Treat each section as a self-contained unit with an opening and ending. This makes it easier to follow and helps the audience to remember the information. Also the more openings and endings you have, the more you maintain audience concentration.

To command the audience’s attention you need to speak with confidence and conviction:

  • Take a few seconds to look at your audience before starting to speak. This will help you control those initial nerves that can cause you to rush at the start of the presentation.
  • Take your time over every word: don’t snatch at words or merge words or syllables together as this can sound nervous or even abrupt.
  • Imagine your voice is like a laser beam and direct it to specific points: it will come across with greater purpose.
  • Use regular pauses to help control your pace and allow the audience time to take in the message you are delivering.
  • Emphasise key words in a sentence to help enhance the impact of what you are saying.

Body language

The way you use your body language can also help you convey a confident and engaging presence. Stand in a strong open stance, with weight firmly on two feet before you start to speak. This will help you to appear calm, confident and you will be less likely to fidget or make nervous movements.

Try to gesture on some key words. This enhances the impact of what you are saying and creates a stronger visual impact. Share eye contact around specific members of the audience. This makes you feel as if you are having a conversation with individuals rather than speaking to them en masse.

Finally, try to enjoy your presentation. Remember, if you enjoy it your audience are more likely to as well.

 

Liz Banks is Managing Director of Skillstudio Limited.



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