CAREER ADVANCEMENT / SEP. 28, 2014
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How to Overcome Business Presentation Fears

Many people have an innate fear of public speaking or presenting. Uncontrolled anxiety can result in presentation paralysis, thus resulting in poor delivery. While it is not possible to totally eliminate nervousness, there are techniques which can help manage your fears, and thus deliver an effective presentation.

Here are some tips that will help you bring your presentation fears under control:

1. Know your subject

If you try to give a presentation on a subject you are not very conversant with, you are likely to experience nervousness. It is therefore very important to study the topic thoroughly before the presentation. You should also take time to understand your audience to ensure that the material presented is relevant to their needs. If possible, consult your audience beforehand and find out what their expectations are. Knowing that your material is useful to the audience will help alleviate your fears.

2. Structure your presentation

Having a proper structure for your presentation is one of the best ways of dealing with anxiety. With a structure, you will not have to worry about remembering what you want to say. However, this does not mean that you have to write the whole presentation word-for-word. Instead, you could have cue cards with a set of key phrases. These phrases will automatically remind you what is coming next. At the end of the presentation, you could do a recap all your major points.

3. Practice, practice, practice

After creating a structure for your presentation, you need to practice thoroughly so as to be confident with your delivery. Practice allows you to deliver the material not just from your written notes, but from your heart and mind. If possible, record an audio or video of yourself speaking. This will enable you to evaluate your speed, tone, facial expressions and gestures. Take time to make the necessary improvements until you get it right. If you will be speaking to a large audience, it would be advisable to practice with a smaller crowd first to test your preparedness.

4. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Once you’ve worked on your content and delivery, pay attention to other aspects of your presentation. Think beforehand of what you will wear. Make sure it is appropriate for the intended audience. On the day of the presentation, arrive at the venue early enough and set up your equipment. Anticipate problems and make sure you have a contingency plan in the event that something does not work. Think of questions that the audience might ask and prepare responses in advance.

5. Apply relaxation techniques

Anxiety causes an increase of adrenaline in your body, which in turn results in various physiological reactions. These reactions can be alleviated using the following techniques:

  • Drink water – When you are nervous, your mouth is likely to dry. It is therefore very important to have some drinking water nearby. Take sips occasionally as you feel your mouth drying
  • Practice deep breathing – In most cases, anxiety results in shallow breathing. Deep breathing gets oxygen to your brain, thus resulting in a feeling of calmness. In addition, it prevents voice quivers which are caused by uneven breathing
  • Smile – Smiling releases positive chemicals into your system, which results in a feeling of calmness. It also puts your audience at ease, thus making it easier for you to connect with them
  • Speak slowly – Speaking slowly allows you to be less nervous and makes it easier for your audience to hear you. Remember to leave pauses between your sentences, especially after making a major point
  • Move around – Walking around during a presentation is a great way of releasing some of your nervous energy

When it comes to presenting, being anxious is normal. However, you don’t have to allow fear to get the better of you. Applying the techniques above will enable you to control your nerves and enhance your confidence.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kupicoo

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