Most of the time you are articulate, confident and more than able to make yourself understood. But the minute you're put in front of an audience, with all those faces looking at you expectantly, you go to pieces. Your hands are sweating, you're shaking, your breathing has gone all shallow... oh, for goodness sake!
Most of us suffer from stage fright to one degree or another, finding it really hard to make good business presentations. But it doesn't have to be that way. The team at Sussex Business Bureau has some tips and techniques to help you overcome your fears then make a presentation that knocks their socks off.
Brilliant from start to finish – Our presentation tips
You never look as nervous as you feel - It's good to know that even when you feel totally terrified, it's unlikely anyone will notice. Our feelings actually don't show that much. It's amazing how confident you can look, without even trying very hard, even when you don't feel it. Distance is a great thing too – you might be shaking close up but your audience won't see it.
Nerves are good – You're nervous for a reason. It's usually better to feel some nerves than be over-confident, because it keeps you sharp and keeps you on your toes. Use that adrenaline!
Starting off is the worst bit - Kicking a presentation off is the scariest bit. Once you've started and you're into the rhythm, you'll soon calm down. You might even start to enjoy yourself. It's thrilling to hold an audience in the palm of your hand.
Be funny if you like – It's humanising, it's entertaining, and it makes people warm to you. But take care not to offend. Keep it light. What's funny to one person can easily offend another.
Being yourself is better than pretending - You could pretend you're fine, but it's much better to just be yourself. It's OK to admit you're nervous, too. It'll make your audience warm to you, realising you're only human like them.
People are interested in what you have to say – Your audience is either there because they've chosen to be there, or watching your presentation because it's important for work. People want to hear what you've got to say. They're interested. And that means they're on your side. They're rooting for you, and it's hard to feel nervous when you're in the company of people who are willing you on.
Grab their attention from the start – How can you make them sit up and take notice right at the beginning? You have a few minutes' grace before people will switch off, so make the most of it with a series of fascinating statistics, a crazy fact, a story, a quote, a tricky question, an impressive set of numbers, something controversial, something engaging.
Show your passion – It's infectious. The more passionate and interested and excited you come across, the better your audience will appreciate and even enjoy what you've got to say. Carry them along on your wave.
Focus on what matters to them – A presentation is rarely about you. It's almost always about your audience so focus your attention on them, what they need to know, and what they want to hear.
Keep it simple – If you have an important message to get across, make it your only message rather than one of several. Keep your arguments clear and simple. If it doesn't feed into or support your core message, leave it out. The same goes for the actual content of the thing. The best presentations contain no more than ten slides, last no more than 20 minutes and feature a font size of at least 30 points so everyone can read the words with ease.
Transform your message into a story – Humans have gathered together to exchange stories since we first stood on two legs. Originally we gathered around camp fires, now we gather around the telly. Stories are incredibly powerful. Every movie, book, radio play, political speech and news item is a story, and so is your presentation. Make it so. Even the most dull, boring subject can be transformed into an engaging story, one way or another.
Manage expectations - You could start off with a summary around 30 seconds long, telling people what your presentation is going to cover and what they'll take away from it. Then they'll know exactly what to expect and you'll get their buy-in nice and early.
Learn to use your voice creatively – You know the way TV presenters speak? They slightly exaggerate their natural communication style, putting extra emphasis on some words and changing the tone and loudness of their voice as the story unfolds. You can do that too, and it really helps make a presentation special. Follow this link (https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/effective-speaking.html ) to find out how to speak more effectively.
Don't forget body language – Did you know as much as 75% of communication is done via the body, not speech? It's a great thing to harness, since it has such a powerful effect on audiences. Don't over-do it, though. Just feel free to move around the space naturally, rather than standing so stiff and still that people could be forgiven for thinking you'd dropped off!
Watch others making a great job of it – If you need inspiration, explore presentations on YouTube and see how seasoned presenters move, talk, interact and unravel their stories.
Take all of the above into account and you should find your next presentation a lot less daunting. You might even actually enjoy it!