I delivered a presentation a few years back in the worst venue possible! There were no walls – just curtains between the various parts of the event. Unfortunately, there was another speaker who was scheduled to speak in the room right next door at exactly the same time as me. He was a well-known TV personality with a powerful voice! As you might expect, we were both wearing lapel microphones and as we both needed our audience’s to. Hear what we were saying and love our presentations we shouted over the top of each other for a good hour until thankfully his session finished before mine. I had a good hour to bring it back on track! The good news is that I’ve received bookings from the people in that audience to speak for their companies. They loved the presentation despite the dreadful venue.
It’s true that your presentation is not always going to be held in the best possible venue with the best possible environment, or even the best possible audience! As the presenter, remember your role is to put your best foot forward and at all costs you must serve your audience.
Here are 5 things you can do to ensure you present brilliantly, no matter the circumstances:
1. Know your Audience. Make sure you work out what your audience is thinking, feeling and doing prior to your presentation. What is their current state? Then work out what you need to achieve from this presentation. What is your desired state? If you do this before you craft your message, you’ll be sure to create a presentation that has purpose and that serves your audience.
2. Rehearse your Key Messages. Rote learning doesn’t work. It overloads your brain and almost certainly causes you to go blank. Rehearsal or practice is essential though. Be sure to run through the key messages of your presentation out loud (different words each time) so you know what you want to say and in which order. Some people like rehearsing in front of a mirror. Just be sure to make time to practice as often as possible so that no matter what, you’ll be able to keep going. One of my all-time favourite sayings is, “Great speakers rehearse until they can’t get it wrong.”
3. Get in the zone. Serena Williams believes she wins tennis games because she follows a certain routine each time. She brings her shower sandals to the court, tying her shoelaces a specific way and bouncing the ball five times before her first serve and twice before her second. The Wimbledon champion even wears the same pair of socks during a tournament and she believes she loses when she doesn’t follow her routines. When presenting you might like to listen to a certain song to get in the zone, or maybe you want to wear a certain pair of socks, a lipstick that makes you feel great or a suit that just works for you. I recommend that like serious actors, you always do your vocal warm-ups to help get in the zone before an important presentation. My confident speaking vocals audio is available from my website: www.michellebowden.
4. You are what you eat. Avoid alcohol and caffeine the day and night before you present because they dehydrate you. Chose herbal teas, coconut water or energy drinks at a push. Plan your day and be sure to eat a good breakfast with more protein that processed carbohydrates (think green leafy vegetables, eggs, salmon) or you’ll end up starving and exhausted and at the end of the day with a massive headache to boot.
5. Work off your stress hormones. When we are ‘nervous’ or ‘stressed’ our body produces cortisol in response to a perceived threat, promoting the burst of energy that allows you to run or fight. Too much cortisol and you’ll be too ‘full-on’ when you present, and the audience won’t be able to relate to you! In my early days of speaking I recall almost shouting at an audience because I was so pumped up on cortisol. This is not OK! Although our distant ancestors may have benefited from this physiological response, a modern lifestyle that involves high levels of stress may lead to excessive amounts of cortisol in your system, which is not healthy for you. Regular exercise can help reduce your cortisol and stress levels. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice reports that aerobic exercise seems to have the greatest effect on reducing cortisol levels.
If you’re keen to learn more about the 3 strategic phases to persuasive presenting so that you follow the presenting formulas that work, please be in touch with me. I’d really love to help you. I have a book called: How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work(Wiley); and I also offer public masterclasses you can attend live, and lunch and learn sessions via zoom. Happy Presenting!
Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. Www.michellebowden.com.