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Thoughts, feelings and psychology

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The most frequently asked question I have been asked countless times by presenters is, ‘How can I be more confident when presenting?’ No matter how much effort is devoted to rehearsing a presentation, many presenters still fret about what will happen to them the moment they start to present. The stress that so many put themselves under leads to increased cortisol levels. This steroid hormone, produced in response to stress, is responsible for activating the body’s “fight or flight” reaction. And when you are presenting, ‘flight’ is not an option!

So how can you prepare to manage the anxiety and increase your confidence level? I always advocate a few simple tips. First of all, know every ‘click’ in the presentation. Click through the slides in silence, several times. And when preparing to rehearse your delivery, resist the temptation to write every word you are going to say. Trying to remember a script and be word perfect is hugely counter-productive, and time consuming; and only increases stress levels even more! For decades presenters have been aware that it is not what you say, it’s how you say it. Instead, your energy will be better focused on being pitch perfect. The trick here is to have clear in your mind as to what is the over-arching point on each slide you want your audience to understand and why.

From this approach to rehearsals, you can then create your own story that is empathic to the audience. This will be beneficial to boosting your confidence. And, story-telling will increase the retention levels of your audience.

As you start to feel more comfortable and confident with your rehearsal, record a video of your presentation delivery. And when you review it, do it without the sound track. And then look at the most important thing, your posture. Your presence, not only affects how your audience sees you, it actually affects how you see yourself. Perception is reality. Posture is the theme of an amazing presentation by social psychologist Amy Cuddy at a ‘Ted Talk’ conference titled, ‘Your body language shapes who you are.’

Many years ago, a media consultant gave me a tip just before I presented to over 300 people. He said, ‘The last thing you do before going on stage is to go to the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror.’ And I pass that advice on to you. So next time, go to the bathroom, look in the mirror and strike a pose of the presence you want to make in your presentation. The old adage of presentation is everything has never been more true.

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