How to Overcome Presentation Anxiety

To plan any presentation requires you to identify your goal and determine how to achieve that objective through your voice. Gather more information for context, and frame your message to fit your audience. What point do you want to convey? Use specific examples to tell a story without bragging.

I sometimes plan meetings to help my legal group achieve its goals. Similar to that first meeting I led almost 10 years ago, I’ve also launched meetings that fell flat. I didn’t plan for what my speakers would say. Talking points are essential. Ideally, they are bullet points so nothing sounds scripted.

Once you plan your message, it’s essential to practice. If it’s a live meeting, stretch and stand up straight to loosen up and gain a confident stance. Even if your talk is over the phone, practice first so your voice isn’t hoarse. I’ve talked to people I wanted to impress who surprised me when they said they knew it was early in the morning for me. I’d been up for hours, but hardly talked until then.

Once you practice, get feedback about your presentation before you go live. For example, loved ones have always teased me for being loud, so I was shocked to hear I seem very quiet in some professional settings. That’s where speaking groups such as Toastmasters International can help.

According to their website, Toastmasters International is a “non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.” Fortunately, there’s one located in my office in downtown Chicago at 321 N. Clark Street near the Merchandise Mart.

I attended my first Toastmasters after that horrific meeting almost ten years ago. I recently caught myself saying “Uhm” a lot on a conference call when I presented. I revisited Toastmasters. The prepared speeches for that day fell through, so I tapped into my high school extemporaneous speaking days and stood behind their podium for an impromptu speech.

I got helpful feedback: “hesitation, need to improve connectors between transitions and eliminate three uh-ms.” That confirms what I suspected.

To polish presentations requires attention to details. For example, the reminder to breathe deeply a few times before I start speaking helps me avoid awkward breathes mid-sentence. Even though nervousness is natural, delivery should be as smooth as possible with eye contact for a live audience.

My challenge is to work on transitions during live and fluid conversations. I naturally pause to think about my next point. That sometimes feels like an eternity. I also balance that against my initial instinct to run through the thoughts racing through my mind…

To polish your presentation, emulate an excellent speaker you admire be it another professional, local advocate or famous pop entertainment speaker.

What have you found helpful for successful presentations?

Related posts