Today’s post is written by Myrna Vaca, the Head of Marketing and Communications at Lyoness America, where she is responsible for marketing, communication, and business development efforts.
No matter how many times you’ve done them, presentations can be a nerve-wracking experience. A good presentation can make your name a buzz word among the higher-ups, but an excellent presentation can be the fire that ignites your launch up the corporate ladder. It’s as exciting as it is intimidating, and the ones who pull it off are rewarded with more involvement, more recognition and eventually, that all-too-coveted promotion.
What’s the secret? It’s not pretending the audience is sitting out there in their underpants. In fact, that imagery tends to make a lot of people even more uncomfortable. And it’s not just confidence, either. You can have all the confidence in the world, but still give a crummy performance.
The answer is a well-balanced combination of confidence, preparation, and creativity.
Here is how to give a confident presentation that will launch your career to the next level.
Step 1: Draw on Experience
Before you even start the outlining process, set up a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor or manager in the department your presentation is geared toward. Let them know that you just want to pick their brains about their presentation processes. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be more than happy to help.
NOTE: It might also be a good idea to ask your supervisor if he or she feels anyone in particular in the company should be included in the presentation meeting. Your supervisor might suggest someone you hadn’t thought of who would benefit from your ideas.
Step 2: Prepare Your Presentation & White Sheet
Using what you’ve learned from your supervisor, craft your presentation to fit in the time allotted with at least five minutes to spare for questions and answers. Remember to keep the presentation engaging and dynamic, and the white sheet limited to just one page with a clear outline of your major points. Even if you’re not required to have a white sheet as part of your presentation, having a physical list of your main ideas and topics will not only help your audience follow along, but it will also impress them with how prepared you are.
Once you’ve finished putting the presentation together, take some time to run through it a handful of times on your own and in front of a friend. This helps you find where your weaknesses are and where you should add to or scale back on the information. And running it by a friend or co-worker will also help you work on pacing, as well as help pinpoint any areas that might need additional clarification.
Step 3: Prepare Yourself
Just as marathon runners go through a “tapering down” period just before a big race, don’t stress yourself out with over-preparation as the big day approaches. Instead, practice your full presentation a few days beforehand until you feel confident that you have it down, and then just review your notes and outline the last couple of days leading up to the meeting. During those last practice runs, however, check out some of the following tips to help you feel more confident the day of:
Practice in a room similar to the one you will be presenting in. If possible, practice setting up any equipment you might need so you feel comfortable with the process the day of.
Record yourself giving the presentation. This will let you hear the volume and pace of your voice and adjust it as needed so you come across clear and confident. Additionally, listen to the recording for any additional areas that might have too little or too much information. Remember the old ‘KISS’ adage: Keep It Simple, Silly.
Practice in front of a mirror to check both your stance and your hand movements. You might not realize that you have a habit of putting your fist in your pocket until you catch yourself doing it in the mirror. At the same time, slouched shoulders convey a sense of insecurity. Be sure to adjust your posture so that you appear tall and confident.
Make eye contact. As much as possible, avoid looking at your white sheet and instead, catch the eyes of your audience. This conveys the sense that you are including each person individually and encourages them to invest more fully in the presentation.
Dress to impress. Nothing does more to ruin your audience’s first impression of you than wrinkly, stained and/or poorly fitting clothes. This doesn’t mean you need to run out and buy a whole new outfit — just pick a favorite dress outfit that you feel confident in and, if you’re prone to spills and splashes, change into it just before the meeting to avoid any unfortunate stains.