When you are inexperienced as a presenter, the thought of presenting can be daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be, even if you’re scared of public speaking. I find that proper preparation will cure up to 80% of stage fright and the remaining anxiety can be a good thing because you can use that adrenaline to add excitement and passion to your presentation. (Most experienced presenters need that rush of adrenaline, otherwise, they feel their speech is left flat.) Beginner speakers (and experienced presenters) need to go through the full presentation preparation process. The most important thing to your presentation is to remain audience-centric, meaning the focus of your presentation is for your audience and not for your benefit. Even if you’re presenting for work as either a bid presentation or thought leadership presentation, you want to create a message that inspires and/or educates your audience, not sell them something. To put your mind at ease, let me share my best tips for beginner speakers.
7 Tips for Beginner Speakers
- Strategy – Ask yourself and your organizer questions to get to know your audience including what do they know already, what challenges are they trying to overcome, and how can you enrich their lives. These answers will help you determine your strategy [the first aspect of my S-I-M-P-L-E presentation skills training], including will you need a visual aid [e.g. PowerPoint], where should you stand, and what will you talk about during your presentation.
- Thesis – Craft a thesis to set the tone of your presentation and to keep you focused, just like you would develop a thesis for a school paper. At the end of your presentation, your audience should be able to roughly state your thesis because that is the most important part of your presentation. Once you have your thesis down, you can brainstorm your talking points, narrow them down, and start developing your full presentation.
- Outline, Don’t Script – Many beginner speakers want to script out what they say word-for-word, thinking it will make it easier to present and relieve the pressure. Scripting does the converse, it adds pressure because instead of learning your talking points and having your slide deck remind you of the order of the presentation, you are forced to remember 100% of everything you planned to say. Worse, if you script your words and you fumble and miss a single word, you end up skipping entire sections of your presentation. Because of the extra pressure of memorizing a script, you’re more likely to make a mistake and you tend to not engage your audience because you’re uncomfortable. Instead, outline your presentation and create your visual aid from that.
- Practice – The key to any good presentation is practice. Use your outline and walk through your outline multiple times. Each time you go through the presentation, you’ll make small adjustments and refine how you say things. Create your visual aid from the outline and practice with that too. Slowly ween yourself off the outline as you get more comfortable with what you’re going to say.
- Dress Rehearsal – Do one last round of practice with everything set as close to the real presentation as you can make it. Wear the outfit you plan to present in during your dress rehearsal to make sure you can move your arms freely. Keep in mind if you’ll be wearing a lavaliere microphone that you need a place to clip it on and run the wire. Also, practice with a presentation remote and I suggest grabbing a colleague to sit in your “audience”. The best practice audience members are non-technical colleagues, such as an office manager, to ensure you’re not talking over your audience’s heads.
- Enjoy Yourself – During your presentation, relax because you’re prepared to rock this presentation. Enjoy yourself and just have a conversation with the audience; that is all a presentation is really, a conversation. Contrary to what many beginner speakers, making eye contact with your audience will actually calm your nerves. You’ll realize that you’re speaking with humans that want you to succeed and not a big scary monster.
- Debrief – Ask the event organizer for feedback, or if you’re presenting a bid presentation, ask the selection committee for a debrief. Many conferences survey audience members, ask for the surveys and review them. Keep in mind that you will never make everyone happy, so review them with a grain of salt and look for the little nuggets that will make you a better presenter. [I created a bid presentation debrief form that you can download for free.]
These seven beginner speaker tips should help put your mind at ease. Search my blog as you develop your presentation for more suggestions because I’ve written about just about everything from What Do I Wear for My Presentation? to What Audiences Want from Your Presentation.
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How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.