Business Presentations – Are You Scared?

Most people don’t like to stand up in front of an audience to give a talk or presentation. Some are even uncomfortable presenting their information in business meetings, especially in front of senior executives. Stage fright is the number one obstacle in giving a presentation. People feel nervous, get “butterflies” in their stomach, and feel like they can’t remember what to say. But take heart, if you have stage fright you are in the majority.

The most important thing you can do is to simply acknowledge that giving a presentation is an uncomfortable task for you. Notice I didn’t say a weakness; it’s simply an area where you need some help in developing the skills that give you the confidence to talk before a group. The uneasiness you feel just before you talk is really just adrenaline, a natural “energy boost”! Any top athlete or performer has this same adrenaline energy rush that helps them to perform their best. The butterflies you feel in the pit of your stomach are “a good thing”.

The first step in improving your presentation skills is to stop thinking of it as a negative task or experience. Master these soft skills and all you’ll have to fear is fear itself:

• Organize the presentation properly – There are three clear-cut parts to any presentation. The introduction, the main body and the conclusion. Make sure you have all three or your presentation will not be cohesive.
• Introduction should tell the purpose – It’s important to let the audience know at the start and during the introduction the reason for the talk. Also make sure you grab their attention in the beginning. Start with a related story, quote an expert or statistic, or ask a question, such as “Did you know that Twitter already has 86% of the internet Social Media market? ”
• Main body – There should only be three to five main points. That’s about as much as the audience can absorb and process. Back up each of the points with stories, pictures, facts or details.
• Conclusion – Make sure the close is effective. Briefly recap the main points and end on a positive note or call to action. Following the conclusion, take questions if appropriate. Always repeat the question before you give your answer.
• Practice – “Practice makes perfect”, so take the time to practice the presentation out loud and in front of a mirror. The more times you practice, the more comfortable and confident you will be with the delivery of the material.
• Physical Considerations – Dress appropriately for the audience you are addressing. Posture is key. Stand with your legs 4-6 inches apart to help with weight distribution and make sure to keep your shoulders back. Watch your hand gestures. Vary the volume, rate and pitch of your voice. Make eye contact with the audience. Never point a finger at the audience; use an open hand, palm up instead.
• Other Things – Be careful with humor. Arrive early to check room set-up and audio visual equipment. Keep Power Point slides simple – use a title and 3 bullet points per slide and go easy with the graphics.

Remember, when you act well, you do well.