Advertising

Considering Presentations

Advertising
Considering Presentations

Tomorrow, I will stand in a room of people at Bar Camp Boston and talk about content networks. The audience will be primarily really technical people, who know more about networking, hacking, developing, engineering, and everything than me. They will be looking at me with eyes that all engineering crowds give me at presentations: “Who are you? What do you know? How can this be useful to me?”

I owe them a good performance. This post is some of the mental workings that I think are important to consider before giving a presentation. My goal in presenting them to you is that you’ll think about these same points before making your next presentation.

Step One: Consider the Ending– When this presentation is over, I want the people in my audience to be energized, happy, engaged, and thinking about my material. I want them to be excited to think about building content networks themselves. I want them to seek my guidance and participation in helping them form content networks.

Advertising

With that in mind, I know this: I don’t have to SELL people anything. I don’t have to ask for money. I do have to talk in big vision terms. I do have to give them “call to action” points, such as asking them to visit a certain website, give me email addresses, site addresses, things like that. I have to convince them that I’m intelligent and useful to their plans. Thus, I’ll build my presentation with those themes in mind. I’ve started at the ending. (Hmm… “Habit 2: begin with the end in mind”).

Step Two: Consider the Venue– There are 150 total attendees. I don’t think they will all be at my presentation. I’m guessing 30 or 40. This means I’ll have a decent sized room, but not an auditorium. I can move among them. I won’t have to be stuck to a podium. Should I bother with PowerPoint? I might not.

The venue determines the toolkit. Think of it as a setting for a movie. If you’re watching Jaws, you don’t expect flying saucers. It also determines how I can lay out the presentation’s “feel,” the ambiance of engaging these people to tell them a story. If you think presentations shouldn’t fit the rooms where you give them, reconsider that thought.

Advertising

Step Three: Consider the Audience– Of course the audience is the most important part of the presentation. You didn’t know that? My audience will be smart. They’ll have their bull$&!t detectors on full blast. They won’t appreciate my natural “not so many diagrams” style of presenting. I’ll have to win them over with being funny. Luckily, when I’m nervous, I’m very funny. (You should see me at a hospital).

The presentation must fit the audience, and you have to really consider what their ears and eyes are trying to pluck from it. If they’re highly technical, tell them in three-letter acronyms how the thing will work, “We’ll use RSS over SOA to make the CMS really drive CPM.” If they’re marketers, tell them, “This content network idea will really add stickiness to sites, drive more interaction and click-through, and push brand value further into the customer base.” Big difference, wouldn’t you say?

Step Four: Build the Presentation– I’m going to be nervous. They’ve alloted me 30 minutes. I know the crowd will be skeptical of me because I’m not a name brand. They’ll wonder if I’m worth their time. I’ll worry that they are going to get up and leave.

Advertising

With this in mind, I won’t stick to a static PowerPoint presentation. I will use it for some fact-pointing, and I’ll use it for some really colorful backgrounds. I will use humor above all else to try and keep them engaged. But I’ve got a secret weapon. I’m going to hand out parts of my presentation to people in the room (as per a recent post I made here to that effect). I will get them to be part of my act. Build your presentation to take into account everything you’ve considered in the first three steps.

Step Five: Test it Out– I’m far better at improv than I am rehearsal, so I won’t lie to you about that. I like going up there cold turkey and just making the words happen. Sometimes it works really well, and other times, people just stare blankly at me, and I worry that I’ve slipped into another language.

Try at least running through your slides, your notes, whatever you’re going to use as “panic props” for the presentation at least once before you give the presentation. Oh, and if you’re doing something really interactive like a web-based demo, have a backup. Have slides with screenshots that you can use to walk people through. Have all kinds of backup plans in place.

Advertising

Step Six: Bring Down the House– People love to be reflected in a mirror. I’ve used this trick in nearly every presentation I’ve ever made, and it works every time without fail. Tell them about themselves, and praise them in the process, and you’ll have allies. For as many people that think they’re being played or had or whatever your term, plenty more will be saying, “Wow, Chris really understands me.” I’ll take it.

Be genuine about that. Don’t pretend to love these people. For the duration of the presentation and the follow-up, LOVE these people. Give them every bit of your fiber in this presentation.

Lastly: Q&A– The absolute worst parts of a presentation can be the presenter saying, “Any questions?” and then the wave of tumbleweeds blowing through. Make your way past this disaster-in-the-making by doing one of a few things. Try seeding your audience with a plant or two. “Chris, can you tell me how you fit into the content space?” (Thanks, Mom!) Or, have a few pre-set questions that you can say, “People who’ve heard this presentation before have asked me whether or not to keep their existing blogs. Here’s what I’ve told them.” This will grease the skids a bit, and help with the anxiety of the “spotlight” being suddenly turned on the audience.

Advertising

And, if you use ANY of this, let me know how it turns out, okay?

–Chris Brogan has written about presentation tricks at Lifehack.org before. In fact, he writes lots about presentation for a guy who doesn’t do it for a living. Drop us a line at tips at lifehack dot org with your best presentation tricks, or visit our forums and chat it up a bit.

More by this author

7 Uses for a Virtual Machine When Emailing Think Press Release Mail, BrainDump, Mail, Do Stretch Goals Matter You Had me at Insane

Trending in Communication

1 10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It) 2 I Want To Be Happy: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Find Happiness 3 13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently 4 10 Morning Habits Of Happy People 5 What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

Advertising
How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

Advertising

  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Advertising

Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

Advertising

However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

Advertising

Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

Advertising

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

Read Next