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5 Ways to Calm Your Presentation Fears

5 Ways to Calm Your Presentation Fears

If you’re anxious about giving a presentation, you’re not alone. Seventy four percent of people fear public speaking, but with preparation and practice, they can become proficient presenters, confident in what they have to say and how people will receive it. Here are a few tips to calm your presentation fears and give a knockout presentation each and every time.

Thoughtfully Develop Your Material

Clear, concise material is the easiest to present. Organize your material in a logical, consistent format so that one thought logically flows into another. It’s helpful to think of the material in terms of chapters, like a book. Create an introduction, body, and a conclusion. Cut out any unnecessary points so you have time to fully develop the important material. What are the questions you’d have about the material if you were hearing someone else give this presentation? Make sure those questions are answered within the material that you’re presenting.

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There are two ways to craft a presentation. One is to script every word, but this leaves you no room for ad-lib, and it makes it easy to lose your train of thought and derail the presentation. It is much more effective to make an outline, listing only the key points of each topic. Then you can fill in the body as you speak without fear of getting sidetracked and losing your place. Think of it less like a memorized speech and more like a natural delivery of information.

Prepare Yourself Mentally Before You Begin

Mental preparation is as important as learning your material. First, realize that your audience has a vested interested in your success, just as you do. After all, they’re investing time and effort into attendance, and they want it to be profitable. Nobody in your audience wants to see you fail. Next, learn how to calm yourself. You can do this by picturing yourself giving a brilliant presentation instead of visualizing yourself messing up.

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Picture yourself sitting in the audience, watching yourself deliver an interesting, engaging, informative presentation. Also, learn some calming techniques, such as breathing exercises, to calm your nerves right before you step up to present. A good way to break the ice and allow yourself time to calm down before the presentation is to hand out useful swag, like promotional pens so everyone can take notes. These few minutes spent handing out pens before the presentation allow you to meet and greet the audience and practice your relaxation techniques before stepping up to speak.

Rehearse Thoroughly Well Ahead of Time to Present

Develop your presentation way ahead of time so you have a lot of time to rehearse it. Whether you’re using Powerpoint or other visual aids, practice with whatever you plan to use on the day of your presentation. If possible, have a friend or family member sit in so you can practice in front of an audience. Run through the presentation a few times to familiarize yourself with the subject, and then practice in front of someone else.

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It’s a good idea to prepare a method for people in the audience to ask questions. If you’re intimately familiar with the topic, instruct them before you begin to simply raise their hands if they have questions. Or, before you start, ask them to hold all questions for after the presentation. This way, you don’t have to worry about getting sidetracked during your rehearsed performance. A knowledgeable coworker might volunteer to have a pretend question and answer session during rehearsals so you’re prepared for this part too.

Be a Human, Not a Robot

The only danger of over-rehearsing is to memorize the material to the point that you sound more like a robot than a human presenter. Stay fluid enough to remain engaging and entertaining rather than just an informer of the facts. Don’t hesitate to work in relevant anecdotes, a few tasteful jokes, or other lighthearted methods for keeping the audience involved and engaged in the presentation.

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Take time to watch other presentations for insight and inspiration. For instance, you can check out some of Zig Ziglar’s inspiring presentations on YouTube. Ziglar is one of the most engaging speakers in the modern era, and you can learn a lot from his techniques and how he takes command of an audience in a personal way. Or, find one of your own favorite orators and emulate what they do to make their presentations spectacular.

Take Control of the Presentation From the Beginning

When it’s time to step up and begin the presentation, take the reins. This is your time, your audience, and your subject matter. You’ve developed good material, practiced it until you’re an expert, and you’ve relaxed your nerves so that you can think and speak coherently. Now, let go of those fears and allow the presentation to shine. Speak more slowly than you think you should, because it’s human nature to speak faster when speaking in front of others. Force yourself to breathe at a normal pace in order to pace your speech.

Don’t worry if someone asks you a question to which you don’t know the answer. Even experts don’t know every single thing about their topic. Offer to research the answer and get back to them, or ask them to find out and let you know because you’re interested in the answer too. Never let a single questioner take over the presentation. If someone has lengthy comments or wants to start a debate, ask them to meet with you after the presentation or during break.

With the proper preparation, there is no reason to fear giving a presentation. In fact, many people are able to overcome their fear of public speaking and eventually learn to love giving presentations. This does take time and a lot of practice, but it isn’t uncommon at all. Just remember, your audience wants to see you succeed as much as you do. Nobody enjoys sitting through a poor presentation. In fact, audiences are more likely to step up and help the speaker save a teetering presentation than to ambush one. Prepare, relax, and do your thing.

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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