In any occupation, chances are you have been approached by your boss, at one time or another, to give a presentation. I certainly understand that giving a presentation ranks right up there with having root canal surgery. But there are certainly ways to help alleviate the stress associated with this traumatic event. There are actionable steps that will help you get through your presentation successfully and remain gainfully employed.
Step 1 – Prepare Your Material
This is first because it should be. Nothing alleviates stress more than knowing, inside and out, what you’re going to talk about. Doing the research, and gathering the information needed for the presentation, should be your #1 priority.
In fact, if you are giving a presentation, it is understood that you are the authority on the topic. More often than not, you will know the topic better than anyone else in the room. Just that fact should help you get through it with a well-informed confidence.
Step 2 – Create an Outline
Some people like to write the whole presentation out first, which is fine. But, when you are ready to give the presentation, you should use index cards with bullet points, rather than a document that is completely written out. Chances are you are using overheads or PowerPoint to assist with the presentation. You may already have the bullet points on the slides, which makes it easier to speak to.
Since you know the material (see step #1), just use the bullet points for an outline to keep you on track. No one wants to listen to someone who reads the whole thing from a script. For one thing, it’s boring. Another is that your audience may make the assumption that you’re not prepared, which doesn’t bode well for your presentation.
Step 3 – Practice
Yes, I know, this one is obvious, but it cannot go unstated. Being a member of Toastmasters, the international organization devoted to public speaking, I know how important it is to practice a speech or a presentation. I know of some people who have practiced for a presentation while they are working on the assembly line at their job. Others may be practicing while running on a treadmill at the gym. If you want to give your presentation to your dog, that is cool too.
Simply repeating the words over and over really helps you get over those nervous jitters about speaking out loud. One thing that you want to also do is time yourself. This had been drilled into me at my Toastmasters meetings because we are very concerned with staying within time boundaries. If you don’t have a stopwatch, there are online timers that you can use that will help you stay within the time allotted.
Step 4 – Visualize Success
After practicing your presentation, visualize positive responses from your audience and your boss. See yourself speaking with confidence as you know the material and are imparting important information to your audience. One quote that I use when it comes to life and to giving a presentation is “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” If you look at giving a presentation as a positive event, rather than an ordeal, you may find that you might even enjoy the experience.
Think of it as personal growth rather than a chore that you are dreading.
Step 5 – Solicit Feedback
When you are ready to give the presentation, perform a dry run for your peers, if at all possible. Ask them for constructive criticism. In Toastmasters, after we give a speech, there is an evaluator who also gives positive feedback and recommendations for improvement. You may be doing or saying something that takes away from the presentation, but you weren’t aware of this fact.
Maybe you were using the words “ah”, “so”, “you know”, or “again” excessively. I actually counted 53 times that my Human Resources manager said the word “again” at a half hour presentation. Do you think that took away from the material she was presenting? Absolutely. If you know these things ahead of time, you can make positive changes and refine the presentation based on this feedback.
We all know it can be difficult giving a presentation. But if you follow the steps outlined here you just might find that this dreaded, anxiety-ridden, task can end up being a positive, fulfilling, and gratifying experience of personal growth.
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