When I was still at school, most of the people in my class had to deliver a short presentation in front of the entire school and there was a prize involved. As you could choose your own subject, I was very excited and prepared for weeks. I thought everything was perfect but that changed on the day of the competition. My turn came and I was called up onto the stage. It was only then that the problems began. I reached the podium and could not see over it.
I had been one of the last in my class to start growing and was the shortest person participating. I realised that I could not see over the podium and, if I remained behind the podium, nobody would be able to see me. Therefore, I was forced to step to the side of the podium. With my entire short body now in view, I did not know whether to hold my notes in front of me or leave them on the podium and ad lib. I chose the latter and started to speak. People began shouting because since I was now not in front of the microphone, I could not be heard. I walked to the front of the stage and basically shouted my way through what was now a bit of a fiasco. As I no longer had my notes and did not know what to do with my hands, I twiddled my thumbs in front of me as I spoke.
Needless to say, I didn’t win the competition. They never gave the results from those that were outside the first three places but I am pretty sure I came last. It was not until after university that I had the opportunity to receive some training on how to present and I now love presenting. One job that I had about ten years ago on cruise ships was based purely around the ability to deliver short presentations to over a thousand people at a time and try to get them to sign up for something on the spot.
Besides learning techniques on controlling your nerves (probably the single biggest thing that helps) areas such as how to control a question and answer session helped me the most. I personally now always start from left to right and front to back when allowing people to pose questions. All of these factors can help other people with controlling their own nerves.
So, besides the areas covered in our courses, here are some other subjects to think about which can help with overcoming nerves:
- Find out what resources you will have access to at the site which the presentation is to be held at. Going with a PowerPoint presentation isn’t useful in many places in Africa. This is an extreme example, but it makes the point. Less radical examples might mean finding out if you will have access to a microphone or not.
- Ask if it is possible to see the venue first. Do the props that you are going to use always suit the shape and size of the location? Would everybody be able to see the screen?
- Use suitable humour if possible. Not only does it help to break the ice, it often makes the presentation more memorable and will help separate you from competition.
- If getting help, try be specific. Do you want assistance with building the presentation or delivering it? There is available help for both.
At Activia, we try and provide assistance in developing presentations and delivering presentations. We have courses for both and combined as well. For any help with putting the wow factor into your presentations by overcoming nerves, give us a call.
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If you enjoyed this article, make sure to read the next post in the series, Is There A Difference Between Presentation Skills And Public Speaking?.