Are you looking for a way to deliver stress-free presentations? Are you one of those people who dreads standing at the front of a room with nothing but your PowerPoint to support you and a sea of faces judging you?
Presentations are a fact of life and critical to the success of many business owners. Whether you’re pitching a product or service, sharing a business update with employees, or speaking at an industry event, a well-delivered presentation can inspire, educate and help you sell.
Still, the fear of presenting is a very real problem. According to a survey by Prezi, a cloud collaboration platform, 20% of respondents said they’d do anything to get out of a presentation, including pretending to be sick or getting a colleague to take over. Furthermore, 75% said they would like to be better at presenting.
If this sounds like you, here are seven things you can do to shed the anxiety and deliver great presentations—ones that you may actually enjoy!
How to Deliver Stress-Free Presentations
Think About How You’re Helping Your Audience
I’ve delivered lots of presentations, good and bad. But the ones I remember, and hopefully, the audience did to, were ones that engaged them directly about their pain points and challenges while offering actionable tips and best practices to get over them.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your delivery and appearance, which only generates anxiety. But once you start focusing on why you’re delivering the presentation, the issues it’s addressing, and what your audience will get out of it, you’ll find that your energies are focused less on yourself and more on what your audience can learn from you, which naturally decreases anxiety.
Which leads to my next point.
Know Your Stuff. If Not, Lean on Others.
Spare yourself the anxiety of fluffing your presentation—speak only on topics that you are comfortable with. If there’s an area of your presentation that fills you with dread or you have anxiety about getting it right, ask someone who is more familiar with the topic to take that slide. It could be one of your direct reports or an outside consultant who has supported you on a project.
If you ever attend a presentation skills course, one of the first things the teacher will do is ask you to deliver presentations on a topic you know, and film you doing it. It’s an eye-opening experience that can expose everything from poor voice projection to lousy body language. Have a go. Film yourself at home, play it back, then work on correcting your weaknesses. Once you feel comfortable, repeat the exercise and compare your performance.
Break Your Presentation Down into Chunks
Instead of trying to deliver everything you want to say in one long narrative going from slide to slide until, phew, you reach the end, try to break your presentation down into manageable chunks. Each chunk should take up 5–10 minutes and focus on one thing. For example, if you’re addressing an industry pain point, break it down. Introduce the pain point. Next, talk about the consequences of ignoring that pain point. Then, review existing market options for solving that pain point and the pros and cons of each. Each one of these chunks, could easily take up a 5–10 minute block on their own—and also provides plenty of room for a pause so that your audience can reflect and you can better pace your delivery.
Another benefit is that by separating your presentation into distinct chunks, you start to tell a story, which builds audience engagement (they see themselves in those problems and are eager to see how you can help them). In fact, storytelling, both verbal and visual is one of the most powerful things you can do as a presenter—to help yourself and your audience.
Plan First, PowerPoint Second
A surefire way to frazzle your nerves is to leave your content planning till the last minute. Plan your content well in advance. Map out your structure, then open PowerPoint or whatever visual aid you use, and sketch out your chunks of content. And remember, less is more. The more content and copy you put in your slides, the more demands you put on yourself to follow those slides religiously and get tied in knots, especially if you’re already anxious.
Get There Early
Whether delivering presentations in your office, at an offsite location, or over a webinar, get there or position yourself early. You don’t want the anxiety of running late or dealing with last-minute technical glitches. Arrive at least 30 minutes in advance. Test your AV equipment. Interact with others and get comfortable.
Interact with your Audience ASAP
Instead of flying into your presentation, take your time, introduce yourself then deflect attention from yourself by engaging with your audience directly.
- Who are they?
- Why are they there today?
- What have they come to learn?
- What do they hope to take away?
Give them an opportunity to feel a part of the process—it’s a powerful tool for deflecting attention from yourself, getting to know more about your audience, and quashing nerves early in the presentation.