The Ultimate Guide To Being A Better And More Confident Presenter
Does the thought of presenting in front of a small group intimidate you? How about speaking in front of a large crowd? If the mere thought of getting up on stage scares you, then you need to read this guide. This article will arm you with the tools and knowledge you need to become a better and more confident presenter (it’s your time to shine)!
Do You Have Presentation Anxiety?
First of all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a little anxiety. Even those who’ve given hundreds or thousands of presentations still feel anxious from time to time. And that’s perfectly alright!
A little anxiety isn’t going to kill you, especially if you know you can handle it. Some presenters like the adrenaline rush anxiety give them. It lets them focus on the task at hand and challenges them to succeed and overcome their negativity.
Anxiety becomes bad when you let it control you, and you let it affect your mental and emotional being. It’s bad when the word ‘presentation’ causes your heart to go into overdrive.
The mere thought of giving a presentation makes you hyperventilate. You think of ways you can avoid presenting. You come up with a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t be presenting and maybe even plot different strategies to get sick or worse ‘injure’ yourself! All to avoid giving a presentation.
If that example wasn’t bad enough, let’s dive into the other symptoms of presentation anxiety.
Top Symptoms Of Presentation Anxiety
Butterflies in the stomach
We’ve all our had our butterflies-in-the-stomach moments. Many people experience it right before a test or an exam, others experience it before speaking in public. Generally, we get this feeling when we’re about to step out of our comfort zones. When we’re technically ‘forced’ to do something we don’t want to do, but we need to do it anyways.
Negative images come to mind
Instead of focusing on the great things you can accomplish in your presentation, you think about the exact opposite. You think about how you’re going to fail big time, how your computer is going to malfunction, or how your audience is going to fall asleep, or worse, laugh at you! You imagine yourself flunking your course, or getting fired by your boss simply because you botched your presentation.
When you feel like you’ve swallowed your tongue and your saliva seems to have dried up, then you’re in big trouble. You’ll find it hard to concentrate on your presentation. Instead, your mind will turn to trying to figure out how speaking normally works. It’s like you go back to being a baby and you’re learning how to form words all over again!
Shaking hands and knees
Do your hands and knees suddenly seem uncontrollable? No matter how hard your brain tries, it can’t get through to your hands and knees? When you hold your hands up to your face, you feel like they’ve got a life of their own. It’s like they belong to someone else’s body!
Feeling too warm or cold
You and your audience share the same room and the same temperature. But when you’re anxious, you feel like the room’s too warm and you end up sweating profusely. You tug on your clothes to try to loosen it up a bit. For some people, they experience the opposite. They feel like the room’s a bit too cold for comfort.
Surprised? Don’t be. If you’ve been in this situation before and you thought that yogurt you had at lunch was the culprit, well, it probably wasn’t. When you’re stressed and anxious, your insides turn to mush as well. So, that trip to the bathroom was probably a manifestation of your presentation anxiety.
How To Crack Presentation Anxiety
The struggle is real – presentations can cause even the most seasoned presenters anxiety. If you’ve been presenting for years and you still find yourself getting overcome by your fears and your insecurities, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Many presenters have overcome their presentation anxiety – you can too! Cracking presentation anxiety is absolutely doable. It’s not going to happen overnight, but with time and practice, you’ll get over your anxiety or at least get it down to a manageable level!
Here are some of the top ways you can beat – or at least control – your presentation anxiety:
Think positive thoughts
Getting rid of your negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones is easier said than done. But with a little bit of practice, you can do it. The trick is to be conscious about it. Often, our thoughts turn negative without us even consciously knowing how it got there. So, you need to be aware at all times.
When your mind starts spewing negativity, tell yourself to stop. Take deep breaths. If you can, write down those negative thoughts and then on an opposite column, write down your positive thoughts.
When you do it this way, the moment you start thinking those negative thoughts again, you’ll have an answer. And you’ll be able to replace those bad thoughts with good ones!
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. When you’re scared about giving presentations and all the unknown that goes with it, then you need to rehearse your presentation and your speech until you can do practically everything by rote.
When rehearsing, make sure you don’t just do it mentally. It’s important you also practice audibly so you can hear yourself talk. You need to make your rehearsals as close to the real thing as much as possible. This means working on your voice, your pronunciation, your hand motions, your body language, even your pauses.
When you feel like you’ve done your presentation a thousand times, you’ll feel more confident when you present in front of an audience.
Turn your weaknesses into your strengths
We all have our weaknesses. You just need to accept yours. And promise yourself you’ll do everything you can to overcome it. If procrastination is a weakness, then you’ve got to learn how to stop it.
Work on improving your skills so you can be better. Just imagine all the opportunities you’re missing out simply because you can’t control your weaknesses. Some may say our weaknesses define who we are. I say it’s our strengths that make us who we are.
Draw strength from your support network
Having a supportive network of family, friends, and colleagues can do wonders for your confidence. If you’ve got a reserved personality, don’t be afraid to open up. Let your loved ones in – they may be able to give you useful suggestions on how you can improve your presentation.
One way you can get some much-needed feedback is by rehearsing in front of your support network. Even having just 1 or 2 of them listen to your speech will do wonders for your confidence.
Don’t be afraid to hear criticisms – especially positive criticism. If you’ve got negative people in your circle, well, maybe it’s best you stay away from them for the meantime. You NEED positivity right now – being surrounded by negative people will only compound your anxiety!
Now that you’ve got an idea on how you can crack your presentation anxiety, here are the top presentation training tips you should follow to ensure you knock your presentation out of the park!
Top Presentation Training Tips
A great presenter is a great storyteller. He or she knows exactly how to hook their audiences in. They know who their audience is and knows what makes them tick. They don’t go in blindly – they know their presentation by heart. Great presenters focus on getting people’s trust and attention, not just on what’s written on their slides. So, here are some of the top tips you should follow if you want to ace your next presentation:
Know who your audience is
Knowing who’s going to be sitting in front of you is important. You don’t need to know people’s names especially if you’re presenting in front of a large crowd. But it’s important to find what’s common among them. You’ve got to ask yourself, what’s in it for my audience? Why should they listen to me?
If you’re doing a company presentation, perhaps your audience is composed of potential investors or customers. You want to present how your company can help them meet their goals and their dreams in life. You want to make your presentation about them, not about you.
There’s nothing wrong with being honest
You’ve probably heard of the saying, honesty is the best policy. If you’re nervous, there’s no harm in admitting that to your audience. If they laugh, that will help break the ice. It may even make them like you and pay attention to you – all because you were candid enough to admit your nerves are on fire. If you’re running into some technical difficulty, tell them about it. Apologize and assure them you’ll have it sorted out ASAP.
Have a strong start
Introductions should make an impact. It’s literally what draws your audience’s attention in the first place. People judge you in the first few minutes of your presentation. If you don’t snap people out of their boredom or sleepiness, then chances are they’re going to be tuning you out throughout your entire presentation. Think of a way you can get people to focus on you, and you’ll be thankful you’ll have people actually listening to what you have to say!
Tell relevant stories. Stories that make sense to your audience and your presentation. Stories are one of the best ways to hook people in – you can use your presentation slides as your story’s visual backdrop. Weave your narrative in your slides too. People can recall stories more easily than the bullet points they read on your slides.
Learn to relax
People can tell when you’re not relaxed. Even if you pretend to be relaxed, your body language will eventually betray you. Your shoulders will be stiff, your laughter will sound forced, and you’ll basically move and act like a robot. When you’re relaxed, it’s much easier to present. It will be much more enjoyable, and maybe you could even end up having some fun!
Use your voice effectively
Have you ever sat on a presentation where the presenter just droned on and on in an endless monotone? They may not have read off of their slides word-for-word, but you wouldn’t have cared. Because just a few minutes of hearing their speech was enough to knock you out to sleep.
If you want people to listen and pay attention, you need to use your voice effectively. Use different inflections, vary your speech’s cadence, emphasize important points by changing your pitch and your tone. Doing all these will help your listeners understand what your presentation is all about.
Work on your body language
Body language is a form of non-verbal communication. Even if you don’t say it, you may just as well be saying it out loud. If you’re not enjoying your presentation, you won’t say it in front of your audience, but your body will betray you. People will know.
However, if you’re a confident presenter, it will show in your posture, the way you make and maintain eye contact , the way you lean forward and move your arms, and so much more. You can study the body language of people who present for a living – you’ll learn a lot from their experience.
Build rapport with your audience, get them to engage with you
You may be the one on stage, but it doesn’t mean you get to do all the talking. If you want to grab your audience’s attention, you can ask them to engage with you. Make it possible for them to engage with you in the first place – you’ve got to genuinely want them to engage.
If you’re faking it or your act looks forced, then people aren’t going to bite on your offer. If you exude confidence, then it’s much easier to get people to follow what you want them to do. Have a few exercises in mind to get people to loosen up and be more receptive to the idea of actively joining your presentation!
Don’t read your slides
If there’s something people hate, it’s when presenters read their slides. They’ll make wordy slides and just read everything off. When you do this, you’re shutting your audience out. You’ll be far too busy reading to realize that your audience has either dozed off or are doodling your caricature on their notepads! Reading your slides is a huge no-no. People don’t sit in presentations to listen to you read slides, they can read it themselves, thank you very much.
Record yourself on video
Having a camera in front of you may be uncomfortable at first. But over time, once you get used to it, you’ll find that recording yourself presenting is very much a constructive activity.
Pay attention to your body language. Take note of your verbal stalls like “um” and your facial expressions. Rate yourself and write down areas you can improve in. Don’t leave anything out.
Continue recording yourself on your next rehearsals, and check your notes if you’ve managed to improve from your previous practice.
Go to your presentation venue ahead of time
You don’t want to be known as the presenter who’s always rushing. People don’t respect presenters like that. If you want people to respect you, you’ve got to respect them back as well. It’s a two-way street. You can’t demand respect if you can’t reciprocate.
When you go to your venue early, you not only have time to squeeze in one last rehearsal. You can also set up your presentation and make sure you won’t run into technical issues later on.
When people start arriving at your venue, you can greet them with a warm smile, maybe even get to know a few of them before you start. Doing this helps put a face on your audience – it may be much easier for you to present when you’re presenting in front of familiar faces!
When To Hire A Presentation Coach
Before you say this article has given you all the tips you need to take your presentation to the next level, know that reading and actually taking action are two different things. Sure, you can take action on your own, but how long do you think it will take to get you up to speed? A few months? A year or two? A few hundred presentations later?
A professional presentation coach will help you reach your goals much faster than if you did it on your own. A professional coach may cost you a pretty penny, but they’d help you identify and improve on areas where you may be lacking.
Before you go looking for a presentation coach in your city, you should ask yourself first why you need a coach in the first place. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the options below, then you may need to look into hiring a presentation coach ASAP:
- You want to become a better and more confident presenter.
- You want to quickly improve and develop your presentation skills.
- You’re tired of not getting enough sales and conversions in your sales presentations.
- You need help refining your presentation’s message.
- A great, high stakes opportunity just opened up for you and a bad presentation will cost you that opportunity.
- You want to get feedback from someone who’s actually been there, someone who won’t sugarcoat their criticisms like you’ll often experience when you present in front of family and friends.
- You want to make sure your audience will love your presentation.
When looking for the right coach, you may need to interview them so you get a feel for how they work and how they can help you out. Get them to talk, so it’s easier for you to find out which coach you feel most comfortable with. If you can ask them for references, that will be great. If you’ve got friends who have used a coach previously, then you may want to have a chat with them about their experience, too.
Whether it’s your presentation skills you need to improve on, your self-confidence, your storytelling skills, or your presentation slides itself, getting customized and highly-personalized, professional assistance is very much a worthy investment.
If you’re on the fence, just think about how many more failed presentations you have to go through before you finally make it on your own. A professional coach will help you fast-track your way to presentation success!
The Top 10 Executive Presentation Coaches And Their Top Tips
If you don’t want to settle for any good, old coach and you only want the cream of the crop to tend to your presentation needs, then look no further than the list we’ve shortlisted below:
“Successful executives don’t invest in coaching, they invest in results.”
If you loved listening to former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, then you’d love being coached by John Mattone. After all, he was Steve Jobs’ executive coach and many other top executives. John is a best-selling author and one of the most highly sought-after CEO coaches and leadership speakers.
“You have to shift your focus from the fear that you are going to make a mistake into your desire to make a difference.”
If you want to know how you can increase your influence, then you should check out Nan Crawford. She is an expert in coaching executives to deliver high-stakes presentations. She will show you how you can leverage your strengths to get your audience to take action.
“You will be able to raise your profile and stand out from your competition, by learning how to persuade and captivate the attention of almost any audience, from boardroom presentations to conference keynotes.”
Whether you need help with your boardroom presentations or conference keynotes, Narges Nirumvala may be the right coach for you. She has worked with many top executives and leaders to help them write persuasive presentations and communicate it to their audience.
“With the right tools, the right coach, and the right support, virtually anyone can be a highly effective communicator.”
As a Certified Speaking Professional, David Greenberg has been in the coaching business for over two decades. In fact, in 1988, Toastmasters awarded him with the “State’s Best Coach Award.” He has worked and helped improve the presentation skills of many business leaders, technical and sales professionals.
“Being perceived as a dynamic, inspiring, and persuasive communicator is a matter of business life and death.”
With over 25 years of training and coaching experience, Patricia Fripp has worked with hundreds of top-level executives and organizations. She has helped them deliver speeches and presentations that are inspired, engaged and ultimately, very successful.
“You don’t need superficial fluff (smile more). You need to truly understand your natural style…how you play your game, your way.”
Anett Grant is a writer, book author, CEO and executive speaking coach at Executive Speaking, Inc. She’s been helping emerging leaders and top executives improve their presentations as well as their leadership presence in the last 38 years.
“Develop your natural talents to speak with stage presence, confidence and credibility.”
Improving your storytelling, body language, and vocal skills will help you deliver presentations that your audience is sure to love. Use Dr. Genard’s theater techniques, aptly called the Genard Method, to help you win your audience over.
“The ability to speak and communicate with confidence and charisma is the single, critical factor that eliminates each and every one of those obstacles, pries open the doors to your dreams and gives you the best chance of achieving them faster – much faster – than anything else.”
Ruth Sherman is an author, communications expert, consultant and presentation coach. She has helped many executives, celebrities, business leaders and public figures to improve and develop their speaking and presentation skills.
“In order to be persuasive, you have to believe in what you’re saying! If you simply “read” it, you’re not able to project your real personality. It sounds too planned. It sounds too perfect. If an audience senses at the outset, you’re not going to be truly present for most of your talk, they’ll tune out.”
Ivy Naistadt has a long history when it comes to helping Fortune 500 companies, executives, IT professionals, consultants, entrepreneurs, and basically everyone who needs help with their presentations. Her unique system allows her to show her clients how to Speak Without Fear.
“Executive presence is a heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us that we’re in the presence of someone who’s the real deal…that telegraphs that you are in charge or deserve to be…. [and] signals to others…that you’re star material.”
Eleni Kelaskos has been a trainer and professional sales coach since 2003. Her background as an actress and singer-songwriter has helped her immensely in shaping her coaching techniques. Her students love that she’s not trying to change them into someone they’re not, but instead, she helps them grow to their fullest potential.
Tools To Help You Become A More Confident Presenter
The choice is yours whether you want to hire a presentation coach or not. Whichever option you decide on, know that these tools below will also help you become a better and more confident presenter.
Use PowerPoint templates
Creating presentation slides from scratch is tedious and time-consuming. But it doesn’t have to be. With PowerPoint templates, you can cut your presentation design activities significantly.
Instead of working on your PowerPoint for a few days, you can have a professional presentation done in just a few hours or even less. This means you’ll have more time to work on the more important stuff – practicing your speech and your presentation itself.
For 100% free, professionally-designed PowerPoint templates, head on over to Templates by 24Slides. There are currently hundreds of free templates available at the moment, with more added every single week.
Watch TED Talks
If you want to learn how top executives, scientists, CEOs, celebrities and even regular Joes do a TED Talk, then you should head on over to TED.com. TED Talks are free, inspiring, and very entertaining. Instead of spending your free time binge-watching Netflix, watch a few TED Talks (there are thousands of them).
Observe the way TED speakers talk, their body language, the way they design their presentation slides, and how they engage with their audience. You’ll certainly pick up a thing or two. Feel free to apply your new-found knowledge to your own presentations. After all, TED Talks are all about ‘ideas worth sharing.’
Dress for success
First impressions do matter. Your audience may be there to watch and listen to your presentation, but you’re not exactly going to be invisible either. You’ll be up on stage. If you wear ill-fitting or non-professional clothes, then trust me, people are going to judge you.
You can’t show up in rumpled, dirty clothes. You can’t look like a homeless person when you’re presenting in front of a professional crowd, or any group for that matter. Your audience members will probably still listen to you, but given your appearance, who’s to say they’re going to believe a word you say?
Dressing for success is not a cliché. For presentations, especially those in a professional setting, wearing the right clothes and looking the part of a successful presenter, are an absolute must.
The road to becoming a better and more confident presenter is paved with challenges. Bookmark this guide so you can easily refer to the highly actionable tips and techniques we’ve shared with you. We wish you much success in your next presentation!