Presentation? Get Used to It

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I’m here to unravel and reboot your perception of presenting. By combining some tough love with yes-you-can motivation, we’ll tame your doubts and train your nerves. Presenting is going to happen - it’s a fact you need to cozy up with. Instead of going through a casual panic each time a presentation comes your direction, we’ll dress up in our discomforts to understand their temperament.

Recently, I presented to room of over one hundred designers. This does not demonstrate a challenge in terms of audience size, but audience accessibility. They know their stuff. After stepping off of the podium, I awaited feedback from my peers. Upon receiving more recognition for my delivery than content, I realised what I considered a learnable skill resembled an unattainable talent for many.

First of all, I get nervous before presentations just like you. My thoughts pre-occupy with my presentation material and doubts ping pong between my ears. Where we might differ is the way this nervousness gets filtered and directed as I take ahold of the situation. The reaction described above gets channeled as quickly as possible to defeat its negative effects.

You practiced this before, but perhaps in another scenario. Presenting in front of a group requires the same mental preparation as getting out on stage, the play field or starting line. If you participated in any Other activities, you experienced the nervousness involved with presenting. I’m sure you developed techniques either learned, researched or taught to handle yourself in such situations. It’s time to apply that learning to this task.

Here’s the reality: presenting is here to stay. Next week, month or year, you’ll have another presentation, and then another. Preparing for your next presentation starts earlier than the night before. My success in that designer audience situation was not luck, but years bundled in practice, classes and reading. I treat presenting like anything else - something that can be learned, developed and managed.

When learning techniques around presenting, you will come across techniques around preparation, style, delivery, tools and content. Buzzy phrases like key message, keep it simple, know your audience and don’t read are good teachings you’ll come across. However, my main recommendation for becoming a better presenter is developing your self-talk.

Concerns fly through our heads like a flock of agitated birds before a presentation. We worry that our mind will reboot and erase our entire memory. We believe we did not prepare well enough, long enough or hard enough. We pressurise this single moment to the same emotional density as getting married. And we do this every time. Presentations will keep coming like battles in a war. It’s not about winning this single presentation, but winning in presenting.

Before and even during a presentation I turn nervousness into excitement. By replacing those doubts above with positive, forward-looking viewpoints, the task looks smaller and more manageable. Here are some of the statements I run through:

  1. This will prepare me for a larger audience
  2. Let’s see how my ideas test out
  3. I want to inspire those who fear presenting
  4. There are no mistakes, only solos

It’s a case of managing doubts over erasing them. Thoughts of memory reboots and inadequate preparation still exist. Instead of concentrating on their absolute removal, I focus on these higher level statements. Thought prioritization like this diminishes concerns by not feeding them with attention. It’s a continuous conversation - as my development in presenting advances, so will my techniques in self-talk.

Presenting happens. As you learned more about yourself in trying situations like performing, debating or competing, you need to do the same here. Start by viewing each opportunity to present as a level up to your experience. Go from there and explore techniques to focus on the greater prospects, not toe-biting nerves. By putting your doubt in the shadows, our world could benefit from your ideas.