There are lots of things you can do to ensure the success of your presentation. Here are seven of them to get you started.
Key 1: Start in a strong space
Start off with confidence … know your opening so well it is like breathing — you don’t have to think about it. This will get you going over the most nerve-wracking part of your speech. By the time you’ve finished what you know by heart, you’ll have gotten into your groove and your nervous energy will be better channeled to where you want it.
Key 2: Schmooze if you can
One way to get a read on your audience, and even get some mini practice time before your presentation, is to mingle with your audience before the speech. Chat with folks and ask questions about what they’re hoping to get out of your presentation. If some ask you to elaborate on what you’ll be speaking about (event programs often give no more than your title), take the opportunity to do a mini, elevator version to practice and (surreptitiously) get feedback.
Key 3: Ground yourself
Before you step up on stage, on the podium or to the lectern, get grounded. There are breathing exercises that can help. Some people like to visualize the results of a successful presentation. Do whatever works to calm yourself and become as grounded as possible. This will help level your voice … when you’re nervous, your voice can often go up in pitch.
Key 4: Beam a smile at your audience
It is difficult to have negative emotions when you’re smiling. Try it. Put on a smile and try to be angry … scared … or whatever. When you smile, you not only tell your brain that you’re in a happy place, which starts a cascade of chemical reactions that make your body believe that, too, but you also open yourself to the audience. People like to listen to a person who looks like they are enjoying giving their presentation. Smiles are infectious.
Key 5: Go easy on the notes!
Don’t rely on notes too heavily. They can be a distracting crutch. They can also completely throw you off your game if you lose your place in them. If you need help remembering what to say next … put notes in generalized bullet points or on separate index cards. That way you can get the info you need in just a second or two, then resume looking at the audience.
Key 6: Use silence as a crutch
Sometimes you might lose your place or forget your next word. Don’t fill that space with ums, ahs and other filler words. Be silent. Silence can be your friend. Think of it as a powerful haven from which you can emerge with a strong continuation of your presentation. More often than not, your audience will not even notice … or they’ll think you did it on purpose!
Key 7: Remember, your audience is rooting for you!
The vast majority of people in your audience want you to do well. This means they will not notice nervous ticks that stand out like a panther in the Arctic to you. They won’t notice that you forgot to include something you wanted to say. They won’t know all those little details you got wrong. So don’t dwell on them. Focus on what you did right!