25 Jan Put your best foot forward!

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 on at the same time as me. We were both wearing lapel mics. 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 out your best foot forward and at all costs you must serve your audience.

Here are 5 things you can do to help manage your presenter state so you put your best foot forward when presenting:

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? In this way you won’t walk in to any big surprises.

2. Rehearse your Key Message. 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.

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 her loses are due to not following 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 vocal audio is available from my website: www.michellebowden.com.au

4. You are what you eat. Avoid alcohol and caffeine 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 veges, 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.

All these tips are essential to help you better manage your presenter state. Happy Presenting!

Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), Founder of Speakers’ Club, co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best selling internationally published author (Wiley), 9 x nominee for the prestigious Educator Award for Excellence (PSA), editor of How to Present magazine, producer of Michelle Bowden TV, and a regular commentator in print, radio & online media. Sign up for Michelle’s FREE How to Present magazine: http://michellebowden.com.au