Sometimes, as part of our jobs, we might be called upon to give a presentation on certain subject matter relating to our roles in our companies and organisations. Perhaps, you have been asked to give a presentation to your customers/clients. Or, to your boss.

Or maybe you have been selected to represent your department in making a presentation to the board of directors, or your fellow colleagues from other departments.

Standing up in front of a group of people can be a very intimidating prospect. We tend to feel nervous and vulnerable. Feelings of doubt keep popping up and we are uncertain how we will be perceived. What if we look silly in front of the group we are presenting to? What if we come across as badly-prepared or unimpressive?

What if the people we’re presenting to, start throwing things at us and shouting “Booo! Terrible presentation! Go away!”? (OK, this last one may be a bit extreme…but at the back of our minds, we may be afraid this could happen!?)

Worry no more – try these easy and practical techniques to tackle your next presentation to your customers, clients, colleagues or bosses.

First and foremost – be prepared. Yes, there is no short cut to this. Thorough preparation is absolutely crucial to delivering a good presentation. You will have to put in the time and effort if you want to perform at your best.

Let’s start with developing your presentation materials. When developing your slide presentation or presentation materials, start as early as possible. Waiting until the last minute only adds to the pressure and stress, and may negatively impact the quality of your presentation.

As soon as you find out you need to do the presentation, sit down and prepare an outline. Do not procrastinate. Then, set aside some time everyday leading up to the day of your presentation, to work on it until you have fleshed out the points, added in whatever additional information is needed, and finally, completed the presentation.

Next, rehearse. Start by summarizing your presentation into key talking points which you can have on a piece of paper or set of flashcards, to prompt you as to the content of your next slide. It is essential that you rehearse your entire presentation, end to end, preferably using a timer to time yourself. If your presentation is too long, shorten it.

Do not leave any aspect to chance. Practice everything, including your gestures and facial expressions. Know when you are planning to pause for effect, and for how many seconds. Depending on your audience, the content of your presentation and your own personal style, you may need to practice sounding more approachable, or more authoritative.

The more effort you put in to the rehearsal phase, the smoother things will go on the day itself. There is much to be said for detailed preparation. Doing several full run-throughs will also help you troubleshoot problem areas in your presentation, such as graphics not loading or links not working, while helping you to keep to the timeframe allocated to you. In addition, you will also become much more familiar with the material, and appear more confident and well-prepared when delivering the presentation.

Also prepare for the possibility of questions suddenly flying at you from the audience. On occasion, you might get interrupted mid-way through your presentation…if your boss or your client suddenly decides to shoot an unexpected question at you.

If you’re not mentally prepared for this possibility, it can cause you to lose your train of thought. Panic could set in…you might feel yourself freezing up and your mind going blank. What should you do to avoid this unpleasant situation?

The best solution, is to be prepared for questions in advance. Perhaps you already have an idea of the sort of questions you might get asked. If not, you could make an educated guess as to potential Q&A areas. Jot down some points on flashcards or a piece of paper, that you can quickly refer to in the event of impromptu questions.

These could include statistics or technical information related to your presentation, just in case you are asked to elaborate further. When the question is asked, you could preface your answer with “Thank you Mr X, that’s a great question”. This gives the audience the impression that you are well-prepared and in control.

A couple of final tips, for the day of the presentation. First, always plan to arrive much earlier (even if the presentation is right there in your office meeting room). Arriving early is beneficial, as it’s always good to test the audio-visual facilities, make sure everything is working properly, and familiarize yourself with the venue.

Being early also allows you to do some key networking before the presentation, and deal with any last minute glitches such as having forgotten to bring your laptop charger! (Yes, this happens more often than you might think ?).

Just before you begin, take a few deep breaths and mentally prepare yourself. Visualise yourself giving a fantastic presentation. As you walk to the podium or front of the room, remember to smile confidently and make eye contact at the audience. This helps to connect you with your audience and allows them to engage with you right from the start.

It’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous and stiff when you begin speaking. Don’t let it set you back. If you feel nervous, speak a little slower and pause a little longer in between sentences. The slower pace will help to calm you down.

Armed with the above strategies, hopefully you can now approach your next business presentation with self-confidence, enthusiasm and a smile on your face! ?

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Personal finance author and trainer

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