Giving your first business presentation does not need to be a nerve wracking event. Advance preparation can go a long way to improve confidence and get the point across in an effective manner.
You have done the research and compiled the numbers. Now is the time to plan a strategy to keep your audience involved in what you have to say. By choosing effective language to engage your audience, you are also opting for words that you are comfortable saying.
Memorable language techniques involve the audience, refer to people, and use interesting quotes, facts, and figures. They do not include humor. There is no need to add to your nervousness by wondering if the audience will understand your joke.
Involve the audience
Make your presentation relate to the people in the audience. For example, company losses can be compared to each person in the room taking a pay cut of a certain percentage. People tend to sit up and take notice when something involves them personally.
Refer to people
How does what you are presenting benefit the people of your company or community? Perhaps the money you will save by changing shipping policies will allow for a bonus for everyone.
Use interesting quotes, facts, and/or figures
Tie in things that are not directly related to your topic but are interesting. For example, “In the amount of time it takes to make a peanut butter sandwich, this new equipment will have produced 50 units of product.” Quoted statements from famous people also work well.
The first time, just go through your slides and what you plan to say. Does the presentation flow easily from one slide to the next? If not, take note of where it is choppy and continue. You want to verify that all the information you want to portray is present. Then work out the transitions to make them flow more smoothly.
The second time through the presentation should go more easily. Verify the time is within the limit, if there is one.
The third and subsequent rehearsals should be done under more realistic conditions. Present to a mirror, record your presentation with a web cam or video camera or even a cell phone. If other people are willing to help, present to them. The more practice you have with your presentation, the more confident you will feel.
Dealing with nervous energy
The moments leading up to your presentation can fill you with nervous energy. Try walking around to release some of it. Finding somewhere to be alone for a few minutes helps some speakers collect their thoughts. For others, distraction works best, such as talking to someone.
As you are being announced, take a couple of slow, deep breaths. The extra oxygen intake will help to clear your mind and let you focus. Take a sip of water and tell yourself you are ready.
You are prepared, you know your topic well, and you have rehearsed what you are going to say and how you will present it. Nervousness is normal. This is the point where you need to remind yourself of a few things.
- The audience is there to hear what you have to say. To them, you are the expert.
- The audience is not aware that you are nervous. Think about the last presentation you listened to. Did you think, as a member of the audience, about how nervous the presenter was?
- Nervousness tends to energize. You can channel that energy into enthusiasm about your topic.
- Once you start, nervousness tends to go away. You have slides to help you focus on your subject. All of that time rehearsing has made your presentation more automatic for you to do.
- Realize that if you feel tension in the room, it is probably due to the audience’s anticipation of what you are going to say. They may be nervous too.
The key to overcoming nervousness is confidence. If you have discovered the facts, involved the audience, and rehearsed your presentation, you can be confident you are well prepared.
Clare Ward writes for the Deburgh Group, a public speaking training company based in the UK. When she is not working, she trains for her next half marathon