Your pulse is racing, your palms are sweating and your knees are knocking as you step up to the microphone. You clear your throat, glimpse down at your notes, and feel all eyes focused on you. Your mind goes blank. You can’t remember how you wanted to start. Your heart pounds in your chest so loudly you’re sure the audience can hear it, and you swear to yourself you’ll never give a presentation again. And then you wake up.
As a leader or manager, you are going to give a presentation to a meeting, team, suppliers, customers and even maybe the general public at some point.
For many presenting is a real challenge. In fact some claim that presenting is the thing people fear most. Interestingly it is also claimed that death is number 6 on the things people fear most.
Fear of speaking isn’t a chronic, untreatable disease. While you may never avoid a flutter of nerves, you can learn to manage them at a comfortable level. The best, most fool-proof way to become comfortable and confident in the spotlight is to practice. Forget the old, inaccurate adage “practice makes perfect.” Practice makes prepared.
And yes, it’s true: The secret behind those speakers we label as “naturals” is preparation. There is no such thing as a born speaker, which means that you have the opportunity to improve your speaking skills no matter what your experience is.
So when you are getting ready to deliver a presentation, how can you get in the zone and deliver at your best time and time again? The truth is it will vary from person to person but here are a few options to consider.
- Take a Brisk Walk
Now this might not work for everyone but what I have found that taking a brisk walk is a great way of getting in the zone. If possible give it a try.
- Do Some Tongue Twisters
It is really easy to get tongue tied in a presentation. Using tongue twisters can be a great way of reducing the risk of getting tongue tied. Basically you repeat a phrase over and over, getting faster each time. Two of my favourites are ‘Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Pepper’ and ‘She Sells Sea Shells on the Sea Shore’.
- Deep Breathing
Taking a really deep breath in and exhaling slowly can slow down your heart rate and calm you down. This is really helpful if you know that you have a tendency to gallop through your presentation.
Many people mentally go through and visualise themselves giving a great presentation. This is very common in sports but can be applied just as well to presentation preparation.
The truth is there is no right or wrong way to prepare for delivering a presentation and the key is to find what works best for you.