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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 January 28, 2020

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

As someone who has been in recruiting for over 10 years I can tell you the interview is vitally important to getting that new job you really want. During the interview process, there will most likely be at least 2 interviews, a phone interview and an in person interview. Both are important.

Companies can of course have different interviewing processes but in general, there is at least one phone interview, also known as a phone screen, and a live, in-person interview. The in-person interview can be with one person or it might be with a variety of people. While they are both important, the live interview is typically the one that will make or break you as a candidate for the position you are interviewing for.

Many of the interview questions we will review here will more likely come up during the live interview. But it’s a good idea to be prepared for them on the phone interview as well.

To illustrate how important the live interview is, I’ll tell you about my search that happened a year ago. I’d decided it was time to move on from the role I’d been in for a little over 6 years. As I started researching and looking for a new opportunity, I began down the path with 2 companies. With the one I landed with, I’d had 3 separate phone screens, each one an hour long. They must have thought they went well because I was asked to fly to the city where the corporate office is at and do an in-person interview. — with 8 people.

Yeah, it was a long day. The good news is I rocked the interviews across the board. I flew home that evening and the following day, I received a call with the job offer. That was less than 24 hours after I’d had the in person interview. This is how important the live interview is.

So how to ace an interview? We can dive right in to helping you nail the 10 most tricky interview questions:

1. What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

This is a personal favorite of mine. The primary reason for this question is not to actually find out what your biggest weakness is. Unless of course, you say something like “showing up to work on a regular basis,” then it’s probably going to get you kicked out of consideration for the role.

The main reason for someone asking you this question is to see if you are self-aware. That is if you know your weaknesses and are smart enough to account for them.

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The smart play here is to answer in a modest way. You want to be able to show that your biggest weakness actually has an upside. For instance, I usually say that mine is impatience. Which is true, I like to get things done. But what I ensure what I point out is that even though I am impatient, it’s because I like to crank and get a lot of work done.

2. Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Interestingly enough, a lot of people don’t have an answer to this question. It’s designed to find out if you’ve actually done research on the company and if you are excited about this position.

When I ask this question, many people have told me something like “because it looks like a good opportunity”. I mean, can you be any more generic?

The key to answering this is to show you’ve done research on the company and that you are enthusiastic about the actual position. Companies want people that are excited to work there, not just someone that shows up for a paycheck.

3. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Employers are asking you this question to see if you have somewhat of a plan for your career. It doesn’t have to be completely mapped out in a step by step manner but, a general overall plan is good to see. It means you are goal oriented and are working towards something.

Don’t worry about answering in a way that states you are planning on sticking with the company until you retire. Rather, focus more on how it’s important to you to continue to learn and get better and better at what you do. Companies like to hire self-motivated people.

4. Tell Me About a Time You Messed Up

Or tell me about a time something didn’t work out the way you planned. Similar in concept. The key here is to show that you take accountability for your actions and how you react to things going wrong.

Companies like to see that you are willing to accept responsibility for the things you oversee and own up when you are wrong. People that always find a way to blame their missteps on other people or circumstances typically don’t make good team mates.

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The other component here is things don’t always go as planned, how good are you at adapting and thinking on your feet.

5. Why Are You Looking to Leave Your Current Job?

This may seem like a place to launch into all the things you don’t like about your current job. Or to talk about what a terrible person your boss is. Don’t do it. That’s the path you do not want to go down. And that’s really what this question tends to prod out of many people.

If I am interviewing you and ask this question and you tell me all the ways your boss doesn’t appreciate you and your company has terrible leadership, I’m thinking what you’re going to be saying about me in a year when you are interviewing somewhere else.

Make sure you are framing your answer in a way that doesn’t shed bad light on your current or most recent employer. You want to focus on things like you’ve enjoyed working for the company but your growth options are limited there so you are exploring outside opportunities.

6. How Would Your Current Manager Describe You?

This question gives you the opportunity to show off your strengths and what your boss appreciates about what you bring to the table. You want to focus on the positive traits that your boss likes and how it helps you in your role.

What you do not want to do is sprinkle in the things your boss doesn’t think as highly of. Don’t say something like my boss would describe me as a focused worker, at least on the days I make it into the office.

7. Tell Me About a Time You Overcame an Obstacle

Another one of my favorite questions. Interviewers ask this question to see if you are able to deal with roadblocks.

Things don’t always go smoothly, so having people on the team who are able to solve problems has huge upside.

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Being able to overcome obstacles is a great trait to have. Make sure you have a few stories about how something didn’t go as planned that caused a challenge and how you were involved in solving the problem. It’s a way of turning a bad situation into a good one.

8. Why Should We Hire You?

If you are at the point of a live interview, you should be highly interested in the position.

By this point, you should have a pretty clear picture of what the role is and how your skills and experience will help you succeed. The reason this question is being asked is to see if you are the right candidate for this role.

This gives you a great opportunity to tell your interviewer how your expertise will positively impact the role. Right now, you are in the spotlight to clearly show that your experience is the perfect fit for the position and why. Shine on!

9. What’s Your Greatest Achievement?

Employers tend to ask this question to gain an understanding of what your big wins were. What are the really impactful things that have happened during your career and how you were the reason why they happened.

This is another great opportunity for you to toot your own horn. What you want to be conscious of is how you tell the story about your biggest achievement. You want to make sure you say why it was such a big achievement.

If possible, it’s always good to include your team as part of the big win. Employers love to hire people who can make things happen but, it’s also important they understand the importance of team work.

10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

You might be asking yourself why this is a tricky question. Honestly, it’s not a tricky question if you are prepared for it.

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What the interviewer is looking for here is how interested and excited you are for the position. You’d be surprised at how many people answer this question with a blank stare or have no questions prepared.

Again, if you are at a live interview, you should be highly interested in a position and the company. You will convey how interested you are in the opportunity with some well thought out questions to ask.

You don’t want to just ask one question like “How often is payday”? Have at least 4 to 5 questions prepared but don’t overwhelm your interviewer with dozens and dozens of questions. Show that you’ve given some serious thought to this position by coming prepared with solid questions to ask.

The Bottom Line

There you go, insight to nailing the 10 most tricky questions during the interview process. There are, of course, many other questions you might get asked during the interview process but, these tend to be the ones that trip most people up.

Remember to take your time and thoroughly prepare for the interview. You don’t have to memorize your answers or anything but having a good idea of how you’d answer these questions will help you ace the next interview.

Here’s to being career advancement ready!

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Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com

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