It felt like my stomach was about to explode.
My blood pressure was through the roof.
To top it all off I could barely keep my eyes open. I yawned.
I had been up all night practicing, revising, and taking copious notes. Notes that now smothered the lectern.
Now looking at the mess of preparation in front of me as the audience peered back I felt worse than I ever had before.
This wasn’t going to go well.
Sure enough, it was a disaster.
I stuttered and stammered through the first five minutes of the presentation.
I read too much into the expressions on the faces of my audience and tried to compensate for non-existent problems.
Finally, I messed up the middle of my speech, losing my notes and begging for forgiveness from my peers.
All-in-all a bad presentation and a terrible start to the weekend. Gutted, I switched off the projector and vowed to keep to myself for the remainder of Friday afternoon.
That was then.
These days I can’t believe I was ever like that.
The thing is, my experience was similar to almost everyone else who has ever had to do a presentation or speech.
It starts off as worry, and then as the presentation dates looms closer worry turns into panic.
Everyone feels this way at first. The trick is to keep doing presentations and eventually you stop worrying. The more you speak into front of groups of people the more you learn key points about audiences and about your presentation style.
But what if you don’t have the luxury of time… What if you have to do a make-or-break presentation that you can’t afford to mess up… What if, despite how you feel, you need to come across as cool, calm, and collected.
Here’s what to do:
1. See the audience as supporters
No matter what you think of them, the audience doesn’t want you to fail. If you fail the audience suffers. The more cringe-worthy your presentation is, the more the audience has to exert energy to ignore things or feel bad for you.
Remember the audience wants you to succeed so they are on your side.
2. You don’t have to be perfect
Perfection is for idiots. Perfection is impossible to achieve, so you need to stop trying to memorize every word of your script. Focus of remembering the key points you need to get across in your presentation.
Get your key points across to the audience by talking to them, not lecturing. Just talk normally about your topic. Not only will you make it easier on yourself because you are not trying to remember a script, your audience will be more interested in what you are saying.
3. Interact with the audience
When you are doing all the talking, guess who has all the pressure? That’s right!.. YOU!
When you feel like the spotlight is on you and there’s no escape you put yourself under unnecessary strain. Take the pressure off yourself by interacting with the audience.
Ask rhetorical questions, ask for feedback, get a more knowledgeable audience member to help you explain a point.
Let me know how you go with your next presentation. I’d love to get your feedback 🙂