Me and my team build presentations for other people on a regular basis. I got to do this for a living because it’s something I have a huge amount of experience in myself and also because creating great presentations is something I know people really struggle to do themselves. I also get asked to deliver presentations myself quite a lot. It could be delivering some training, running webinars, or speaking at events, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than public speaking and presenting to big groups of people.
When I talk to people just before a big presentation I’m delivering they usually ask “Aren’t you peeing your pants right now?”. The answer is always no. I am always a bit nervous of course, and I think a little fear is a good motivator (more on that at the end of this post), but I’m never completely P’ing myself like most.
The reason for this is because I’ve already P’d all over myself before I got there!
Now let me explain that last point. I don’t mean that I usually go on stage covered in my own wee. I’d get a very different kind of reputation if I did. What I mean by P’ing all over myself is that before I go on stage I Prepare and Practice the hell out of my presentation. I literally Practice practice practice, and then practice some more. It’s the only way to remove the massive levels of fear we all have deep down for public speaking.
So here’s a quick look at how I practice in order to become less fearful on the day I’m presenting.
Planning is everything
Regular readers of our blog will know that I’m a huge advocate of planning and preparation. Presentations are such important things so why wouldn’t you put as much time as you can into planning them and getting your story and content right. I always start my presentation design process with a simple mind-map. Thats the quickest way for me to see everything I need to talk about. It also helps me decide what my core message is and the type of visual metaphor and story I can use to glue everything together.
Nothing can put your mind at ease more than knowing you have an outstanding story to tell.
Practice session 1
As soon as i have the first draft of my presentation (note I say first draft not FINAL draft) I fire it up on my laptop and just sit down for a casual run through. I’m talking through it as I click so that I can see how the words and the visuals match up. As I’m doing this I tweak along the way. What might be a 20 minute presentation can sometimes take an hour to get through in this first practice because of the edits I make along the way.
Practice session 2
I normally do practice session 2 straight after the first. That way all the edits are in place and I’ve also got the script fairly nailed down in my own mind. This time though I get up from my seat and get my body moving. It’s really important to get your body used to the presentation you’ll be delivering. People will be looking at you on the day, and you can either engage and move them with great body language, or completely distract them with crazy jazz hands and non stop pacing back and forth (both bad by the way!).
I normally shut the office door, switch off my email and phone, set a timer in front of me so I stick to the time I have for presenting and just go for it. Even if I stumble and mess up my words I just keep going right to the end.
Practice session 3
I normally leave a gap of a few days between session 2 and this 3rd session. This just helps everything sink in a little and of course means I’m not boring myself to death going over the same content a hundred times in one day!
In the 3rd practice I not only get up and move just like in practice 2, but I also record myself presenting. To do this I have a small tripod that I fit my iPhone into, or I might just fire up a GoTo Meeting session on my laptop and use the camera there to record myself. However you decide to record yourself is fine, but if you haven’t tried this yet you absolutely should before your next presentation. If we are all honest there are things we do when presenting that are bad. We all have strange habits picked up over the years, and normally created by the fear of presenting in the first place. I used to say ‘OK’ all the dam time, and even though I knew i was doing it I just couldn’t stop!
Once I saw myself in a recording doing it that was when I said ‘enough is enough, this looks and sounds terrible’. From that point on I stopped saying it.
I should make you aware that you will probably hate yourself a little when you do this 3rd practice, but you will also be able to change some small details of how you stand, look, and speak which will make all the difference. Once you review the recording you can either go at it again and re-record or just make a mental note of what you’ve picked up on and address those points in your final practice.
TIP: If you can, project the presentation onto the wall behind you so that your recording gives you a realistic view of what the audience will see on the big day.
Practice session 4
The day before I always have my final practice. Sometimes I ask guys in the office if I can present it to them for feedback, or if I’m working remotely I just repeat the recording process I did in practice 3 above. I should hopefully be able to iron out all of the things I saw in that first recording and in my experience reviewing this 4th practice normally gives me a tonne of confidence that I’m ready to rock the big stage.
Practicing on route to the presentation
I always listen to podcasts and music when driving, but if I’m on route to give a big presentation I always switch my radio off and just practice the words of my talk. I probably don’t need to do this because I have it so nailed down by this stage, but going over the words again just gives me a little more confidence and helps remove a little more of that fear we mentioned at the start.
It’s pretty simple:
Some more about Fear.
At the start of this post I promised to explain a little more about fear and how I handle it when presenting. Here’s a secret about fear:
FEAR releases the same chemicals in your brain as EXCITEMENT.
When I first found this out it helped me completely reframe how I view, feel and deal with fear of speaking in public. When I know it’s my turn to get up on stage and my heart starts to pump a little bit faster I simply just tell myself “This is more excitement I’m feeling than fear”. I repeat that phrase over and over until my brain agrees with me.
A lot of us will feel the fear weeks or even months before we have to present. In that case you need to tell yourself that fear isn’t an emotion built into us just to make us feel bad. Fear has actually kept our species alive for millions of years because it tells us:
Something is coming up and you need to be prepared.
Reframe the fear you feel for presenting in the two ways I’ve suggested above and I guarantee you that it will be a completely different experience.
Russell @ The Prezenter