12 pieces of advice to prep for a presentation

It takes guts to get up there, but it’s worth the risk. Follow these tips to calm your nerves, control your body language, and connect with your audience.

Does the idea of giving an important speech or presentation make you nervous?

You’re not alone. Most people feel anxious about standing in front of an audience.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for and handle the big occasion:

  1. Focus on the central message you want to get across. If you wanted the audience to remember just one sentence from your talk, what would it be? Concentrate on that, and make the start, middle and end reinforce your key message.
  2. Rehearse as much as possible. Practice and memorize your opening and closing lines. You can refer to notes as prompts, but it’s important to look the audience members in the eyes at the beginning and the end of your talk.
  3. Don’t cram slides with loads of data. If the audience is reading your slides, then they are not listening to you. Use slides to illustrate points and to reinforce key messages, but not to convey detailed text.
  4. Before you go on stage, breathe deeply to calm your nerves.
  5. Stride purposefully onto the stage. Stand tall. Even if you’re a nervous wreck, you can project an air of authority through confident body language.
  6. Wait until everyone is silent and watching you.
  7. Remember to smile throughout your talk. Try to establish a personal connection with your audience.
  8. Start with a bang. It could be an amazing fact, a compelling personal story or a provocative question. Open with something that will grab the crowd’s attention. Never start with an apology or an obligatory statement about how pleased you are to be there.
  9. Speak slowly—and with enthusiasm. Many nervous speakers rush and garble their talk, so slow down a little. Remember to look up at the audience as well.
  10. Pause before making a major point.
  11. Remember that the audience wants you to succeed; they are on your side. No one wants you to give a poor talk. The people in the audience want to hear something interesting, relevant and useful—so give it to them.
  12. Conclude with a clear, confident restatement of your key point or call to action. Smile and accept any applause. Also, don’t rush off the stage; take time to savor the moment.

Finally, don’t think of yourself as nervous. Think of yourself as excited to have a great opportunity. Every presentation offers a chance to uplift, educate and inspire people. That’s a chance worth taking.

Paul Sloane is a speaker and author. A version of this post first appeared on Business 2 Community.


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