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How to deliver confident presentations

Delivering a presentation allows you to get your message to a lot of people at once and to create a positive impression of you and/or your organisation. Nerves need not deter you. In fact nervous energy directed properly makes for a dynamic performance – ask an actor! Public speaking is a vital personal and professional lifelong skill. These are a few tips to help you deliver a presentation with the minimum stress.

1

Be sure to practice these points ahead of your presentation

Everyone gets nervous before a speech - it’s just a matter of degree. Also your mind and body get used to good habits the more they are done. Preparation is the best way to allay any performance worries.

2

Breathe!

Locate where you are tense. Deliberately tense the muscles there and relax them. Pull your shoulders high and let them go loose. Stick your tongue out and relax. Massage your jaw and do chewing action. Smile broadly and relax.

3

Get rid of unnecessary physical tension

Take your attention to your breath. Get used to taking slower, deeper breaths from your midriff. Your breath is one of the areas you have direct control over. Make sure you connect your breath to your speaking also.

4

Get into the right frame of mind

Counteract your inner criticism or fears with alternative affirmations. Be sure to make them both true and positive. It is nonsense to tell yourself you can’t do it, so don’t believe it! Think of your own affirmation but it might be something like “I have a message my audience want to hear”- positive and true.

5

Care for your audience

It is very difficult to both care for something and be self absorbed. Remind yourself that your audience will be more informed and improved as a result of your talk. The chances are that unless your speech is to a personal audience (or to a group of voice coaches!) your listeners are going to far more interested in what you say than how you perform. Think of doing them a favour and have their interests at heart!

6

When you address your audience…

If you are standing then stand purposefully, or “grounded” as we call it. Not stiff as a board but feet slightly apart and rooted. If you choose to sit or are a wheelchair user the same principle applies. Whether seated or standing, don’t fidget.

7

Look at your audience

It is natural when speaking to someone that you look at them. The same applies here.

8

Smile!

...but match your expression to your message. Because you are caring for your audience you want to start with a smile. But as you communicate your message be sure to match your body language and the voice tone (or “paralinguistic communication”) to what you are saying. As Sush Amar says, charities could be making so much more of the causes they champion. If you are passionate about care of the elderly, sound as if you are. If you feel children with Asperger’s have the potential for creativity, let’s hear it in your voice. There is nothing more out of place (“incongruent”) than “I am enthusiastic about telling you…” delivered in a flat monotone.

9

Introduce what you are going to talk about

Some members of your audience like to have the whole picture whereas others prefer to take each point in turn so accommodate both perspectives. If it is a presentation say how long you will speak and indicate when there will be time for questions- five minutes at the end or as you go along for instance. Remember to connect your breath to your words.

10

Finally, go easy on visuals

Overenthusiastic use of overheads is known as “Death by Powerpoint”. Use visuals to complement what you are saying not as a substitute. If technology causes you to panic, think of doing without it. At the very least, make sure it’s all working and you are confident of how to use it. Consider showing images - especially real life examples to go with your case studies. Before and after photographs of the allotment or examples of craftwork from the workshop are far more memorable and informative than letters flying across the screen or dense text to read. And enjoy delivering your presentation!

Further information

About the author

Adam Huntley is a freelance voice coach and organisational psychologist at a.huntley@herts.ac.uk. Visit www.worriedaboutaspeech.com for more tips of confident and effective presentations.

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Page last edited Jul 20, 2017 History

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