“I just secured my first job in my dream company! My first task? A presentation to management on how I plan to accomplish the first 5 tasks on my Job Description. I have never done a presentation for such an audience. I’m low-key panicking. I think I might screw it up and lose the job. Please help!”
Does this fear sound familiar? I received this text message from a close friend. Thought I should reply in the form of this blog post. I hope it’s also useful for you.
Most of us panic as soon as we get such assignments either in school or at work. The good news is, there is something you can do to reduce, or entirely get rid of your fear of public speaking.
Public Speaking Preparation
If there’s one piece of advice that everybody gives or knows, is ‘practice makes perfect.’ You know it too.
The amount of work and hours you put into going through or practising the presentation is what will determine your success rate.
The magic wand when it comes to excellent presentations is in the preparation process. That’s it. You got it from me!
Most people ignore this bit. Why waste time on preparation?
Your goal is to have 100% clarity. To communicate with your listeners.
You have to be intentional about allocating time to prepare.
It’s okay not to prepare if it’s a social setting. But seeing that my friend’s task is a formal presentation, preparation is essential.
She has no room to freestyle like most people do and hope that all goes well. It never does!
You have to strategize your way into nailing your presentation and leaving the stage with a mic drop moment.
Public Speaking Preparation Tips
Mastering what you are going to say is important. However, it is more important to know your WHY. Why do you NEED to say it?
There are 3 key things you should pay attention to while preparing for public speaking:
1. The Goal
What are you aiming at? What are you supposed to accomplish at the end of your presentation?
Define the goal you want to achieve. Write it down.
The clearer you are, the easier it is for you to achieve it. Be specific.
This will ensure that you don’t give your audience useless, redundant or even unnecessary information. Can you imagine how awkward that would be?
If you don’t know what you want to say, you might end up wasting your time and the audience’s time. The only way to avoid this blunder is by being clear about what you aim to achieve.
In a stellar presentation, there are 3 possible goals;
Your listener gains new information.
With new knowledge, they start perceiving things and situations differently.
The audience makes a decision based on the information you give them.
The decision may be made at the moment or later.
Example: If your presentation is about environmental degradation, your audience may decide to reduce the amount of trash they produce.
Your audience takes action.
E.g one signs you a cheque to fund your business or one decides to become your business partner.
If I was seated in a room where somebody was making a presentation about fishing, I’d be on my phone throughout. Why? Because I don’t care about fishing.
If I was made to listen to a presentation about writing, investing or personal finance, I would forget that my phone exists. Why? Because the three topics are of absolute importance to me. I care about them.
Now, think of your audience.
Why should they be attentive? Why listen to you? Is paying attention to your presentation a NEED?
What would they win or lose if they do not act on your message?
Your audience has to care. Ensure the message in your presentation matters to them.
Otherwise, it’ll be a war between listening to you and their social media addiction.
Have you ever sat in a presentation, and after the presenter is done, you sat there wondering ‘what was his/her point?’
Did you try to look around the room to establish if you’re the confused one? And after some time you actually realize that yeah, there’s a confusing mood in the room. Nobody knows what the key takeaway is.
You want to avoid this feedback when you’re done with your presentation.
This is also a part of your preparation where clarity is key.
Your point should be in one memorable phrase or sentence.
Public Speaking Skills
Great work! You have completed the preparation phase.
You are now ready to start the process of rocking the stage!
For the best results, break your presentation into 3 parts;
This is aimed at capturing their attention. If you do this from the beginning, the audience will keep listening.
This is where the content or information you want to pass to them goes.
This enables listeners to make a decision. It should be an emotional ending with a call to action.
The three parts are all important. After you have done the prep work, as shown above, it’s easy to come up with the three parts.
Start your presentation with a bang! Have something that grips the attention of the audience.
You should be able to;
Establish a personal connection with your audience.
For example, narrate a short personal story. This should be related to your presentation.
Make them know that for sure, you are there to help.
Yes, they need to know this so that they feel their time is valued.
Tip: People have a lot of distractions especially mobile phones that they are addicted to. Your introduction should be strong. Make them look up from their phones.
Your content or information they need to know goes here. This is also referred to as the body of the presentation.
Nowadays, people battle with a lot of distractions. As a presenter, it’s important to make it easy for your listeners to follow your presentation. To help them understand your content fully, subdivide the information into subtopics.
Example: A presentation on the degradation of our environment could be divided into subtopics such as;
- The causes of environmental degradation.
- Safe ways to take care of the environment.
- Ways we can teach children to take care of the environment.
- How to manage and reduce waste.
This is the bit where you have your Call to Action. You’ve seen the abbreviation CTA in presentations, right?
In the example of Environmental Degradation presentation above, you could ask people to stand up if they would want to make a pledge to reduce the amount of waste they produce.
Another strong way to end is by asking a strong, thought-provoking question related to your topic. This gets people to think and reflect on their actions or current situation.
All these handy tips take practice.
Practising often makes it easier for you to make epic, thought-provoking and actionable presentations that leave your audience saying ‘we get your point!’ or better still ‘we’re ready to join you in your changemaker journey!’
Did I teach you some presentation lifehack? Please do tell me in the comment section. As always, see you on top of the success ladder!