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Three steps to becoming a more confident presenter

What do you think is the most common concern when faced with having to deliver a presentation to peers, colleagues or clients? I have asked this question to hundreds of clients, at all levels within an organization. The answer invariably, is the same from all of these people. They simply want to ‘feel more confident’ when presenting.

I recently had a conversation with a client about this specific topic, so I thought I’d share a few practical recommendations that have proven to help people become more confident when presenting.

francopresentingExternal Focus (It’s about them, not you)

This perspective is perhaps the most important in building a relevant presentation for your audience. Often, presenters will fill their heads with negative self talk saying things like, “I’m going to make a fool of myself” – “What if it doesn’t go well?” –  “I’m not a good presenter” – “I’m not as prepared as I should be.” These limiting thoughts make it very difficult to build confidence.

The idea is to shift the focus of importance away from yourself and onto your audience. They’re seeking to get value from YOUR insights and gain clarity and direction from YOUR presentation. That’s a great place to start. You are the expert and you’re bringing value. You have the knowledge and information that will help your colleagues excel in their role, save their company money and save them time. When you have that external focus, your energy will be focussed on making sure the audience walks away with value and actionable ideas.

Anticipate (Eliminate the fear of unknown)

As a continuation of this external focus, start thinking about your audience. Who’s going to be in the room? I once heard the notion of ‘never presenting to strangers’. This concept makes sense. You need to do some up front research. Find out the preferred communication style(s) of the key decision makers and influencers. Are they more visual learners? Do they need statistics, data and time to be persuaded, or do they just want you to get to the point quickly? What’s important to the audience? As you build each page of your presentation, ask yourself, “Why would the audience care?” If they will care, keep it. If they won’t care, remove it!

Another critical part of the research is to anticipate the likely (and unlikely) questions they may ask. Work with a colleague who can challenge you and understands the situation, so they can ask you some tough questions. Then, rehearse how you’ll respond to these questions. When they’re asked in the actual presentation, you can deliver them clearly, succinctly and with confidence. The way in which you answer a question (or choose not to), can further enhance or diminish your credibility.

Practice (Schedule time and rehearse out loud)

How do you prepare effectively? Often times, repetition is the number one recommendation managers offer to their team members to help them improve their presentations. It’s critical to know how to prepare because, repeating a poorly planned presentation will only aid you in delivering it ineffectively.

One of the most common reasons people don’t feel confident, is that they haven’t taken the necessary time to rehearse. Or they don’t have the right tools to help them best prepare. It’s that simple. Not having previously delivered the presentation leaves the mind to fill the potential outcomes with unknowns. Taking a few simple steps to prepare and scheduling time to rehearse out loud will provide a sense of familiarity, comfort and consistency leading to a more confident delivery. In future posts, I’ll take you through some effective tools for planning and preparing your next presentation.

For now, it’s encouraging to know that there are a few practical strategies to consider when presenting that will calm the nerves and help you feel more confident. Shift the focus away from you and onto the audience; anticipate the likely questions and how you’ll respond and take the time to rehearse out loud. In doing so, you’ll not only feel more confident, but you’ll improve your chances of getting the desired outcome.

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