How to beat those pre-presentation jitters

As a natural introvert who enjoys communicating in writing so much that I chose it as a career, you might think my natural instinct would be to shy away from group speaking presentations.  

On most occasions you would be absolutely right! – but there’s simply no getting away from group speaking sometimes, particularly when you’re responsible for bringing in work for yourself. 

Fear of public speaking can be crippling, even if you know your subject inside out.  Luckily, even the most debilitating of fears can be tackled with a bit of thought and preparation, bringing about some reassuring certainty as you scrape your chair back, clear your throat and prepare to speak. 

For anyone else who feels those nerves whenever they’re asked to speak in a group, here’s how I’ve successfully managed to get myself through presentations…and even earn the odd compliment along the way!

Make your subject relatable

You may know your subject inside out (which is hopefully why you’ve been asked to present in the first place) – but making it relatable to your particular audience will mean there’s more chance of them actually listening to you, rather than yawning, fidgeting, or pondering that evening’s dinner plans in their heads.    

For example, I’m doing a presentation about writing next week, to a mixed group of people from a variety of professions and backgrounds.  So my chosen subject is ‘personal copywriting’ – because most people will need to write a profile about themselves online at some point, meaning the topic will relate to most of my audience.  Similarly, when I make presentations to school groups I’ll choose career-based writing as the subject.

Cover the obvious – and then practise

Check obvious points such as where you’ll be and how long you’ll be speaking for, and then tailor your presentation for the location and timing allowed.  For example, you might have access to a screen – meaning you can show some interesting slides or a video, turning attention away from you for a vital few seconds!

If you like to have notes with you when you speak, I recommend making a few headline prompts rather than writing out the whole presentation to read from.  You’ll come across as far more approachable if you’re looking at your audience rather than reading verbatim from a page of notes, and your prompts will save you if your mind suddenly goes blank.

(If your mind does go blank, then don’t worry – we’ve all been there!  Most audiences either won’t notice or will be sympathetic…just take a deep breath and carry on).

Invite questions at the end

Allowing your audience to ask questions fills some time and allows for friendly interaction.  If you’re worried someone might ask a question you can’t answer, no problem!  If your presentation is business-related this can actually work to your advantage, giving you a great excuse to find the answer and then follow up with someone personally.

Put it all into perspective

When I’m nervous about a group presentation, it helps me to remember that I’m not Winston Churchill, trying to rally a broken and beleaguered public during some of the darkest days our country has ever known.  I’m just talking about something I love – writing – to a group of people who will, at the very worst, feign polite interest.  Then I get on with preparing my presentation!

Can I help you with a looming presentation?  If so, or if I can help you out of any other writing-based conundrums, please get in touch.

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