Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Presentation? – How the Pros Make Nervousness Their Friend

“There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

-Mark Twain

Everyone is afraid of a presentation, physiologically. Toastmasters International reports that the following professionals have admitted to feeling nervous when speaking in public: Mark Twain, Ronald Reagan, Carroll O’Connor, Barbara Streisand, Anthony Quinn, Garrison Keillor, Sally Struthers, George Burns, James Taylor, Liza Minelli, Joan Rivers, and… Mary Sandro. I couldn’t resist adding my name to such a star-studded list!

Many presenters fight their nervousness. They deny it or use it as an excuse for not presenting. The first step to making nervousness our friend is to accept that it is normal. I dare say, the more nervous we are, the better a presenter we can be. The rationale for this seemingly ludicrous claim lies in the physiological understanding of nervousness.

Making a presentation is an opportunity and a challenge. Any time we are faced with a challenge, our bodies produce adrenaline. Psychologists refer to this as the “Fight or Flight” response and there is no way to stop it. It is wired into our genetic makeup and our bodies have been producing adrenaline for thousands of years.

Adrenaline is a fancy word for energy. When we are faced with a challenge, like making a presentation, our bodies produce energy. That almost sounds helpful, doesn’t it? In fact, from this point forward we will never call it nervousness again. We don’t get nervous; we have excess energy! All of those nervous symptoms we experience like dry mouth, shaky knees, hyperventilation, and butterflies are nothing more than excess energy getting the best of us. Now, what if we could take that energy and get the best of it?

Energy is a necessary ingredient for a successful presentation. Nervous presenters have a lot of raw energy available to them, which is why I claim they can become great presenters. This is also why I disagree with the advice most often given to nervous presenters, “Just relax.” This advice is counterproductive and almost physically impossible to execute.

When was the last time you went into a performance or a competition relaxed? Maybe the last time you didn’t perform very well. We need energy. Some call this energy the competitive edge. Some call it inevitable. It’s very difficult to fight thousands of years of evolution. If we think a presentation is a challenge, which it is, our bodies are programmed to produce adrenaline or energy. Instead of trying to fight this natural, helpful phenomenon, why not use it?

The difference between a polished presenter and one who seems to be having a nervous breakdown is not that one is nervous and the other is not. Physiologically they both are producing excess energy. The difference is how they use the energy. Polished presenters use the energy positively. Historically nervous presenters can too.

In general, things exist in pairs, on a pole as opposites. For example, there is hot and cold, light and dark. Things on the same pole can be changed into one another. Light can be changed into dark and hot can be changed into cold, but cold cannot be changed into light. The same is true with emotions.

Emotions exist in pairs, on a pole as opposites. For example, there is happy and sad, love and hate, anxiety and anticipation. Happy and sad are of the same pole and can be changed from one to the other. The same is true with anxiety and anticipation. Nervous presenters allow their energy to manifest as anxiety, while polished presenters channel that energy into anticipation.

The same energy that creates nervousness or anxiety can create anticipation or excitement. There are many strategies for shifting the energy to the higher end of the pole. The most helpful are mental strategies. To keep the energy anticipatory and exciting, focus thoughts on positive aspects of presenting. Visualize only success. Imagine the benefits of presenting and focus on the opportunity rather than the challenge.

Another strategy for shifting the energy is to get in touch with the physical feeling of anxiety in our body. Where is the feeling centered? Is it in the gut, throat, or somewhere else? Once located, move it up one inch higher and notice how the emotion changes. This mental and physical relocation will shift the emotion to the higher, more positive pole of anticipation or excitement. Do this exercise anytime nervousness strikes, even just before the presentation.

To summarize, everyone gets nervous when they present, even the pros. Nervousness is nothing but excess energy that we can use to generate an emotional state of anxiety or anticipation. Be gentle with yourself and make friends with the energy by focusing on the positive aspects of presenting. Know that the energy can propel you to great presentations by giving you the necessary competitive edge.

3 Ways to Get More From Your Presentation Folders

If you are making a business presentation or presenting a new product, it is almost certain that you will want to use attractive presentation folders to make the right first impression. But how can you get more from your presentation folders to ensure that they give your presentation the edge? Here are three tips to help you make an impact.

1. Create a Quality Product

High-quality presentation folders are fundamental if you want to make the right impression. There is nothing worse than handing over a folder that does not accurately represent your company values, and if you want to impress your prospects then a quality folder is absolutely essential. This will also increase the odds that your prospects will hold onto your personalised folders for longer rather than putting them to one side.

2. Focus on Originality

If you want your presentation folders to get noticed then a custom design will be almost mandatory. You don’t have to win any awards, but it is important that your folders are both attractive and original to ensure that they stand out from the crowd. That means a professional design that takes advantage of the wide variety of sizes, styles, colours and materials available

You could opt for a leather-look finish, choose gloss or matt laminating or employ an original colour scheme, all of which will help to make your folders stand out from the rest.

3. Entice Your Readers

One effective way to encourage readers to actually open your presentation folders rather than putting them to one side is to entice them with an interesting tag line. This is a classic sales technique which could drastically increase your chances of getting people to take notice of the contents of your folder.

Tease the readers, provide them with an incentive to read past the cover, offer to provide a solution to a problem – there are numerous ways to entice your readers to look past the cover, and it is worth spending time thinking about this before designing your presentation folders.

Conclusion

Get More from Your Folders

You need your presentation folders to make the right impression for your company. Don’t make the mistake of designing unoriginal and uninspiring folders. Instead, make sure your presentation folders are attractive, original and inspiring, and they are certain to produce more positive results.

How to Give an Excellent Presentation

Whether you are presenting to a small or large audience at work or in the community, here are 10 factors that can help you give an excellent presentation:

1. You know your subject.
It’s obvious to me and the rest of the audience that you know your material well and can handle questions with ease. You are confident but not cocky. It’s okay if you use notes, but you are not buried in them.

2. You communicate a clear message.
Not only do you know your subject well, but you are able to focus it into a concise message that I can understand, regardless of my level of expertise.

3. Your message is relevant to me (also known as “you care about the audience”).
You explain how your message relates to me and my experience. Once I heard someone give a speech that consisted entirely of stories about his experiences with famous people, to which I couldn’t relate at all. I kept thinking, “how does this help ME?”

4. You are prepared.
You show your respect for me and the rest of the audience by moving through your points in an organized manner, speaking within the time limit and comfortably handling the room environment and logistics.

5. You keep my attention.
You vary your voice and body language so you are interesting to listen to and watch. You make eye contact with me, you speak loudly enough so I can hear you easily and your body language matches your words.

6. You care about your subject.
Your presentation or speech conveys your sincere enthusiasm for your subject. You don’t have to be jumping up and down in the front of the room, but if you don’t care about your subject, why should I?

7. You share stories and examples.
Your stories don’t have to be long or overly dramatic; they can be short examples or anecdotes that illustrate your message and help it make sense to me.

8. Your slides are not the focus.
You remember that you are the presentation and your slides are just the visual aids. You spend most of your time making eye contact with the audience instead of looking at the screen. Your slides are easy to read and contain high-quality images. (Or, you don’t use slides at all!)

9. You are authentic.
You are your real self instead of putting on an act or pretending. You connect with me and the rest of the audience by sharing your real experiences and opinions. And you’re the same person offstage as when you’re onstage.

10. You’re not perfect.
When something unexpected happens or you make a mistake, you acknowledge it with grace and humor. And we are reminded that the goal is communication, not perfection, since perfection is unrealistic and unnecessary.

The next time you have to give a presentation or speech for any kind of audience, make sure you include these 10 factors, so you can deliver an excellent presentation.