If you are scared to present, be assured you are not alone. I also have good news for you. It can be changed or at least improved. I used to be frightened by the idea of presenting in front of an audience too. Here I will share a few tricks with you that I learnt at The Data School which helped me become a more confident presenter.
The issue with presentations is usually not the content but how to organize it. Give yourself time to think about the best way to structure it, so it is easy to follow and keeps the audience engaged. Take notes to remind you the structure.
Tell them what you will tell them – Tell them – Tell them what you told
Tell them what you will tell them.
Start your presentation with an introduction to the topic you are going to talk about. Tell them what you want to say and what the audience can expect during your presentation. Say something that will capture their attention. The aim of this section is to set context and provide direction.
It is the time for you to explain the content of your presentation. This part should be structured logically so the audience can easily follow your chain of thoughts. It is a good idea to interact with your listeners. Before you move on from one idea to another, ask them if they have questions.
Tell them what you just them.
Summarize what you just said. Tell your audience what should they take away from your presentation by reminding them the key points of your message. Give them a chance to ask you questions again. It will allow them to think about and remember what they heard and a chance to you to clarify if anything you said was not clear.
Once you know what you want to present and put the structure together, it’s time to practice. Give yourself some time to rehearse your presentation. I prefer to say out loud what I will say but often I just find a quiet corner and talk inside my head. Rehearsal helps you identifying flaws in your presentation, recognize if the content is not flowing logically.This process will greatly improve your confidence in the topic.
Taking notes is helpful in itself to memorize the structure of your presentation. Don’t be afraid however to take those notes with you to present. There is nothing wrong with it to stop and look at your notes during presentation. The audience won’t judge you for that. Indeed, they would think that you took the efforts to prepare.
You may want to be over the presentation as quickly as possible. You feel more conscious and time seems to pass slower. Don’t be tempted to speak faster though. Talk a bit louder than normal and slow down instead. Because of the messed up time and the extra consciousness, a little break in your presentation might feel embarrassingly long. It is not! Take your time to look at your notes or pull your thought together if needed. A break can actually be good. It can give some time your audience to think about what they heard. Experienced presenters use breaks to increase the audience’s attention.
Everything, including presentation can be learned, and improved by practice. Today I am much less scared and more confident to present. In fact I often realize I actually enjoy it. The key is to be well prepared. There is still lots of room for improvement, and I may never be the greatest presenter but the above tips helped me a lot to become a better one.