Don’t sweat the fancy graphics and screen dissolves. Your presentation is a tool to help deliver your message.
If you dread the thought of making a presentation to a group, you’re far from alone. Anxiety is almost a universal reaction. Much is typically riding on its success.
You’ll find all sorts of advice about presentations on the Internet, but much of that advice is about PowerPoint tricks you can use to put extra punch into your slides. In reality, focusing on fundamentals is the actual key. Slides are secondary to your purpose.
Take care of the basics to reduce your anxiety level and improve your presentation.
- Know Your Goals – Rambling, unfocused presentations just don’t work. Establishing your goal is the first and most crucial step. Begin your planning by creating a single sentence that states the reason for your pitch. When you’re focused on a specific goal from the start, the odds are with you.
- Identify Your Audience – Unless you know your audience and its needs, it’s tough to find your focus. Target the most influential person who will be there and do research to help you get into that person’s head. Ask yourself what the audience wants and design everything to explain how you can provide it.
- Write First – Too many presenters start with slides and then build their presentations around them. Instead, create what you’ll say and design slides to follow your words. Write plainly, forcefully and directly. Start your presentation with the audience’s goal. Then explain how to reach it.
- Keep it Short and Sweet – Too many presentations last too long and end up boring the audience. Write to your presentation speed – typically 75-100 words per minute. Create your presentation to use only two-thirds of the available time. Interruptions and questions will take up the rest.
- Simple Slides Sell – Don’t overload slides with content. Use bullet lists to highlight your points. Keep graphics simple and immediately accessible. Overly complex slides take the attention off your pitch. Skip the fancy transitions and backgrounds, too. Keep the focus on you, not the screen.
- Anticipate Questions – Prepare excellent answers to questions in advance. The more you know, the better able you’ll be to field tough queries. If you have supporting information you may need, preload it into browser tabs for instant access. Be prepared and you’ll make the sale.
- Rehearse and Back Up – Never go into a presentation cold. Rehearse on your own and to a friendly audience. Identify problems, make changes and rehearse again. Run through the presentation again shortly before the actual time. Always have backups on USB drives to prevent disaster.
Adequate Preparation Helps Prevent Presentation Anxiety
An old adage says, “Never let them see you sweat.” Your best protection against that is confidence based on preparedness. When you stand up to make a presentation, take a deep breath and get started. If your presentation is well planned and ready to go, your anxiety will not be so overwhelming. You will make it pop, not your slides.