Your first presentation. A nerve-wracking experience. An event that will keep you awake at night, worried about what to say, fearful of making mistakes, and anxious about being judged.
You’re not alone. There are very few naturals in public speaking. In fact, 75% of people fear public speaking.
I can’t guarantee you’ll love it, but here’s how to survive your first presentation and create a good impression…
When you are about to do your first presentation an important area to set right is your mindset.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling you need to be perfect. But, let me be very clear: No presenter is ever perfect. Presenters always make mistakes. Often the audience doesn’t know a mistake was made unless you point it out. So, it is important you go into your first presentation acknowledging that you will most likely make some mistakes here and there, but you will handle those mistakes when they happen.
But, what if you say the wrong word or you forget a point in your speech?
If you say the wrong word, just correct what you were saying and continue.
If you forget a point, don’t worry. The audience doesn’t know what it was. Just move on to the next point and come back to the forgotten point once you remember.
2. Preparation and memorization
It might be tempting to write out your full script and try and memorize it.
This is a bad idea. It’s a bad idea because, without the benefit of unlimited time, it is impossible to memorize a script fully. As a result, when you are on stage trying to remember your script you will look nervous as you struggle to remember what comes next. Additionally, reciting a script word-for-word sounds unnatural because we don’t speak and write the same way.
Here’s how I recommend preparing and remembering what to say:
- Know your topic very well
- Write out a script with a view to having a clear picture of what you want to say (not with a view to memorizing the script… this step may be un-necessary if you are very familiar with the topic)
- Read through your script and break it into sections or themes
- Give each theme a an easy to remember keyword
- Practice your speech using your keyword as memory triggers
For more reading about remembering what to say, check out my other posts:
You will want to practice as much as possible.
The point of this practice is not to get your speech word perfect (each time you practice your speech it will be slightly different, so don’t worry). The point is to refine what you are saying so that you sound comfortable and natural.
For example, the first time we say a sentence or paragraph of information it can sound a bit robotic, practiced, or rough. The more times we practice saying it the more natural our speaking becomes. This process is important because the more natural you sound the more the audience will want to listen to you.
4. Slide design
Time to create your slides.
If you’re wondering why we are creating the slides now instead of upfront it’s for a few reasons:
- If your slides are the first thing you do, your presentation becomes tied to the slides which makes your presentation very boring for the audience
- If you build your slides first chances are you will read your slides and use them as a prompting device
- When your slides come first they tend to lack impact and be very text heavy
Build your slides so that they support what you have already practiced saying.
Check out my other posts about building your slides for impact:
5. First words
Your first words to the audience can be the toughest part of your first presentation.
You don’t want to look embarrassed. You don’t want to sound nervous. You don’t want to make a mistake.
Got you covered:
The easiest way to open your presentation is to start with a related question. Asking a question takes the focus off yourself and places it on the audience. It gives you a few seconds to collect your thoughts and become comfortable standing on stage.
Here’s an example from a presentation about product diversification: “What are our key strengths as a company?”
How was your first presentation experience? What went well? What would you do differently next time? Let’s chat in the comments below…
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