In the moments, hours or days before a presentation we can be very anxious. Anxious about ourselves, anxious about our audience and anxious about our presentation style.
Such anxiety can be deep rooted. It can become all pervasive and threatening. But fortunately there are techniques to both overcome anxiety and actively use it to our advantage.
There are 3 main techniques to master.
- Preparation. Being prepared counts for everything. Effective planning, preparation and rehearsal are essential. Our planning should include audience research; conference themes; presentation timings and audience expectations. Our preparation should encompass our working mission, objectives, title and the main points we want to make. And don't forget an explosive start and a powerful finish to the presentation. Allowing time and space for rehearsal is also vital. Rehearsal ensures that we can run to the time allotted. It ensures that our word and sentence structures are clear and consistent. We won't become tangled with over complexity. And importantly it also ensures that we are fully familiarized with both content and subject. Familiarization helps us to be fully prepared for eventualities that might otherwise throw us off track.
- Mental Preparation. Being ready to give a good presentation requires a state of mental preparedness. Being prepared is one thing. Being up for it is another. We should remember why it is that we are speaking; because we have the expertise, we are the best and we are professional. Mental preparation requires us to remind ourselves of our own capabilities. We boost our own esteem and belief as a result.
- Breathing. The best rule for public speaking is: keep breathing, without it all is lost. Droll, but true. Before we begin our presentation we need to control our breathing with effective breathing exercises. We breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. We repeat this many times before we need to speak. These exercises, channeling our anxiety and slowing the heart rate, are best performed standing up. In the presentation our breathing should be moderated with our talk. Talking at the rate of 150 to 200 words a minute is about right. It could be slower but should not be faster. When we accelerate our speech we lose our breathing control, the heart increases its beat rate and we become more anxious.
Our presentations become effective when our underlying anxiety - our nerves - are channeled to better effect. Our natural nervous state will result in a polished performance when we are in control. Preparation and planning ensure that we are confident. But not over confident. With our mental preparation complete we know that we are the best one for this presentation - that's why we are asked to speak. And our breathing is optimized for a presentation. It's controlled and measured and timed with our speaking. We are ready to present.
Andrew Ivey is the principal presentation skills trainer at Time to Market the UK-based presentation skills training resource.
Time to Market provides presentation skills and public speaking training in single day and half day courses.
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