Dry mouth, shaking hands, racing pulse. It can only mean one thing—there’s a roomful of people waiting for you to speak. How do you make sure you nail your presentation, and walk out of there knowing this is going to make your next salary review much sweeter? Let’s rewind a bit…and follow these five surefire steps to success.
If you’re nervous about drying up and forgetting what you’re about to say during a presentation, make sure you know your subject matter inside out—you can’t do enough research beforehand. It’s also important to know your audience, so that you pitch your content according to their level of understanding. Don’t go over their heads, or leave out important background detail they may not be aware of.
It’s cringe-inducing but essential to rehearse your presentations in advance. If you can’t rope in a friend, family member or your dog to listen to you, do it in front of the mirror, and go through it repeatedly so the words become familiar. You could also record yourself on your laptop or phone, but be warned, you are probably going to hear or see something really annoying, whether it’s overusing ‘um’, ‘ah’ or ‘like’ or bobbing your head around. Give yourself plenty of time to rehearse it again after filming to iron out the tics rather than freaking yourself out by doing a recording at the last minute.
3. Power poses
Amy Cuddy’s body language talk is one of the most popular Ted Talks ever. One of the most effective tips from it is the use of power poses. To build yourself up directly before your presentation, nip into a toilet cubicle or private space for a few minutes and assume a strong, confident stance, standing with your legs hip distance apart, hands on hips, chest out and head up. Hold it for a couple of minutes, breathing deeply and feeling like Superwoman is guaranteed!
The number one mistake people make with slides for PowerPoint presentations is putting lots of text on them. Your audience will read any text on them faster than you can read it aloud and stop listening to you. You’ll notice them looking bored and feel freaked out. It’s the worst! Keep cue cards to remind you of key themes and any stats you are afraid of forgetting, but let your slides provide only a backdrop, and any graphs or charts for information that needs to be conveyed visually. Don’t make yourself redundant—you’re there to tell the story, not the slides.
It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it. The old saying really is true. People will remember only a fraction of the actual information in your presentation, but their impression of you will stick. So take to that stage like you own the place, introduce yourself confidently, keep your shoulders back, your head up, smile and make eye contact with people in the audience.
Oh and one last thing…don’t forget to breathe!