You may be outstanding at managing, inspiring and coaching employees. You were born to lead, and yet, when you speak in front of a group or give a presentation, you struggle. The fear of crashing and burning often throws you completely off your game.
Presenting in some form, whether it is offering training, making a proposal to upper management or simply leading a team meeting, is a requirement for your job. It’s not enough for you to “just get through it” either. You need to be coherent and direct. You need to leave little room for misinterpretation. You need to have a presence and exude confidence. That’s how you ensure that people understand your message and buy-in into what you’re saying.
Follow this advice to prevent presentation failures (even if you are scared to death of public speaking), and make a positive impression.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
You have heard it before. It is the classic advice, and there’s a reason for that. It works. One of the best things you can do to avoid a presentation flop is to know your stuff. I’ve heard many people equate their preparation with the completion of their PowerPoint slides. Having slides isn’t preparation. A beautiful slide deck will be meaningless if you fumble through the entire presentation, or, worse, read your slides. Think through, talk through and rehearse your talk. That is the best presentation insurance on the planet.
Nail the Opening
The most important thing to prepare is your opening because:
- It is what grabs your audience’s attention and let’s them know precisely why they should keep paying attention.
- Momentum builds when you start well. Even if you mess up later, you have made a good first impression and built some positive energy, making it easier to recover.
- You’ll be more confident. If you know exactly what you are going to say in the first 1-3 minutes, you will have more confidence (and that confidence will build with your early success).
Don’t skip this step or opt to “wing it.” No matter how informal your presentation may seem, plan carefully what you are going to say in those first few minutes and practice until you know it by heart. That way you can make eye contact and engage people early on, rather than messing with your PowerPoint slides or notes.
Decide How You Want Your Audience to Act
Always know exactly what you want your audience to learn, feel or do after listening to your presentation. I can’t stress this enough. If you can’t list one or two (and I recommend no more than three) objectives of your presentation, you likely don’t have a legitimate reason to give it. Determine the ideal response from your audience. If all else fails, and you find yourself floundering, you can return to those core objectives and salvage the presentation.
Don’t Rely on Technology
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to use your PowerPoints or other technology as a crutch. Be ready and able to go if the technology fails you (and if you do the first three suggestions above, you will be well on your way), because one day, it will.
Do those things and your next presentation will be less scary because your chances of failing will be much slimmer. If you want more tips, check out this additional reading:
- 8 Uncommon Approaches to Better Presentations
- [Infographic]: Put Together a Killer Presentation
- New Leaders: Adopt a Cinematic Approach to Drastically Improve Presentations
One last thought: Even if you blunder a bit, or the presentation doesn’t go the way you planned, you will survive. Few things in life are do or die. The goal is to get better and better, and it starts with taking the time upfront to prevent mistakes.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done during a presentation? How did you recover? Share your stories in the comments section.