Giving a Confident and Effective Presentation
Whether it is in a classroom of fifty people or a meeting room of six, having to give a presentation or speech is on the top of nearly everyone's list of things to avoid if at all possible. In all actuality however, the situation is never as bad as we make it out to be. Nearing the completion of my own undergraduate degree in marketing, I have developed speaking skills that I consider one of the most treasured assets obtained from my education. This is not only because employers consider them critical, but also because they enhance my level of confidence. During my education, I have had to give numerous presentations, a multitude of speeches, and been in a couple of situations wherein I had to deliver a message to a group of 80-100 students in a intro level marketing class. Over time, I have gained much confidence and developed the ability to communicate to an audience effectively. Based on my own experiences, I offer several suggestions to the worried individual and his or her upcoming speaking event.
Practice Makes Perfect
The importance of practice cannot be stressed enough. It is possibly the most important factor in delivering a solid presentation. Rehearsing what you are going to say will help your words flow when the time comes to start speaking. It helps eliminate awkward pauses, it helps eliminate ummm's, it increases your level of confidence, and it helps ease your nerves leading up to the event. Being prepared to deliver will ensure that you deliver well. I suggest writing down at least the high points of what you plan on speaking about and practicing in front of a mirror. If you plan on using visual aids, it will be helpful to practice with them as your timing will be fine tuned. Don't forget to practice speaking up and looking at your entire audience.
Take Breaths. Slow Down
Most people, at least to a degree, struggle with nerves when giving a presentation. This will cause them to jumble their words, speak very quickly, forget words, or not make clear what they are trying to say. The thing to remember when trying to deal with your nerves is that not one person in the audience wants you to fail. Every single person is their to listen, not laugh at you. My freshmen speech teacher even told me that if other people have to speak, they are probably more worried about their own time coming than listening to you. When your time comes, dont rush through it. Remember to speak your words clearly in a way that your audience can understand. This will enhance your confidence and guarantee your message is understood without distractions. Slow down, breath, and think about what you are saying.
Think about Educating, not Presenting
One important thing to remember is the very reason you are speaking. Whatever kind of presentation you are giving, you are there to educate your audience on a topic. Knowing that, do not focus on the fact that you are having to present something. Focus on being an educator to your audience. Effective speakers communicate their message in a way that people understand and can relate to. That is the very purpose of your speaking. So if you are talking to a group of board members about future sales projections, be sure you focus on getting them to understand what you are saying, not simply about your own mannerisms. If you are educating with passion, all the rest will come naturally.
Have Fun. Capture the Moment
One thing you may realize is that after all is said and done, you are going to wonder why you stressed yourself to the max like you did. You may also wish you would have simply enjoyed the presentation more while giving it. When you are giving a presentation or delivering a speech, it is your time to shine. It is your time to impress. It is your time to deliver. So do not be overcome with fear like most people usually are. Soak in the experience and make the most of it. You will look back and feel much better about the moment if you were well prepared, breathing, passionate, and did your best to help others learn something. If you were not able to give the presentation, you would not have allowed yourself to be in the situation. Have confidence and believe in yourself.